In response to pressure from Human Rights Watch to heed the crisis in refugee camps for Somalis in Kenya, five foreign governments committed a total of more than US$11 million to improve conditions in the camps. In 2008 alone, almost 60,000 asylum seekers crossed Kenya’s border with Somalia to escape increasingly violent conflict at home. In March 2009, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the terrible conditions in the three UN camps in Dadaab, Kenya, and detailing abuses that Somali asylum seekers suffer at the hands of Kenyan police, including extortion, detention, violence, and deportation back to Somalia.
The refugee camps in Dadaab are now at three times their initial capacity. With aid agencies barely able to meet basic food, water, and healthcare standards, thousands of refugees are malnourished, the water system is crumbling, and sanitation conditions are appalling. We called on the United Nations and international donors to take immediate action to meet the refugees’ basic needs. Responding directly to our call, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees issued an urgent appeal to donors to increase funding for the refugee camps. Having successfully raised the profile of the issue in the international media and with foreign government representatives in Nairobi, we are continuing to press the Kenyan government to stop forced returns of asylum seekers to war-torn Somalia, to open the border for refugees, and to protect—rather than abuse—Somalis in Kenya.