NEWS 2007



Hunger strike Somalis get asylum

Kenya has granted asylum to 23 Somalis, who had gone on hunger strike, fearing they would be deported to Mogadishu.

The refugees will now be transferred to camps in north Kenya, said UN refugee agency spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera.

Eighteen other Somalis were put on a plane to Mogadishu from Nairobi last week, after being refused asylum by Uganda two weeks ago.

The deportation was condemned by human rights groups, who said people should not be sent to a war zone.

Kenya hosts more than 200,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia and South Sudan.

About 60% of Mogadishu residents have fled the city, the UN says

The 48-strong group of Somalis had taken commercial flights through Nairobi for Entebbe, Uganda, but were sent back by the Ugandan authorities allegedly because their passports were not in order.

Five sick women and children were released last week to seek medical treatment.

Last week, UNHCR officials were denied access to the Somalis, mostly women and children, who had been detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport awaiting deportation.

"We are now registering them and giving them shelter and food, they will now be able to access international help and protection," Mr Nyabera told the AFP news agency.

Kenya police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said they suspected the Somalis were victims of a human trafficking ring and were not refugees as they claimed.

Border closed

The UN says more than one million Somalis are homeless and 60% of Mogadishu residents have fled their homes - 200,000 in the past two weeks alone following fighting between Ethiopia-backed government forces and insurgents.

Meanwhile, Kenya police on Saturday arrested and deported another group of 50 Somalis who entered the country illegally through the Liboi border in the north of the country.

The BBC's Bashkash Jugsodaay in Garissa says the group had arrived at the border in two vehicles but were apprehended by police and deported after questioning.

Hundreds of people who have fled the fighting in Mogadishu have been living in makeshift camps in Doble town after Kenya closed its borders with Somalia last year.