Somali Dayah Bus with Passengers on Board Arrested in Eldoret Town
More than 45 refugees boarding the Dayah bus express were arrested and arraigned at Eldoret Main Court and charged with the offence of being illegal immigrants.
The bus that was travelling from Kakuma Township to Nairobi was arrested in the morning of the 20th May in Eldoret Town by a special police unit as the country continues to crack down on refugees.
According to the bus driver of vehicle number KBT-847R, the bus just stopped for a short break at a gas station on a long journey. The bus left Kakuma in the evening of 19th May and encountered a tank problem on reaching Kitale Town where it delayed over six hours before the problem could be fixed. It later continued with its journey through the night and reached Eldoret Town at about 11:30 a.m., when it was approached by Criminal Investigative Department (CID) Police who wear civilian clothes. “Without any word, they got into the bus and warned everyone to produce their identity, no sooner, they started calling us Al-shabaab and ordering the bus driver to take us to the Eldoret Police Station,” an anonymous Somali refugee told Kanere.
At Eldoret Police Station, those passengers who were Kenyan nationals were able to be freed while refugees, regardless of whether they held government issued Identity cards or UNHCR Papers, were not pardoned but locked up in the police cell until later in the afternoon when they were taken to Eldoret Main Court.
According to refugees who were interviewed by Kanere, they were searched thoroughly and clustered in groups, with those who possess UNHCR Mandate papers or Refugee Alien IDs separate from those migrants with no proof of their Identity as a refugees under Kenyan jurisdiction.
Despite the fact that three-quarters of the refugees arrested had proof of their Identity as a refugee in Kenya – the court rejected their plea of innocence. About thirty-seven refugees were charged with being Illegal migrants and sentenced to one month imprisonment or a fine of Ksh 10,000 each, while five Somali men who didn’t have any refugee related documents were sentenced to a cash bail of Ksh 20,000 each and freed. However, it’s most certain that an unknown number of refugees might have remained locked up in the prison because they haven’t managed to pay the court’s cash bails.
These refugees have expressed their grievances that their right to freedom of movement was restricted and they encountered different harassments, bribes and extortion by police officers, several of whom identify themselves as superiors of other officers. “I paid Ksh 3,000 to a police officer for consideration and another officer re-arrested me. Even after a night in the prison, we contribute money to receive receipts of cash bails,” said an Interviewee who requested to remain anonymous.
Three Somali under-aged children spent more than 48 hours in the adult prison which is located on the outskirts of the town. “We paid extra Ksh 2,000 each for an arrangement to secure receipt of the court bail, we also paid money to different officials because they all wanted to take action on our case,” added another Ethiopian complainant.
Moreover, refugees have bitterly described harassments and violation of their rights as recognised refugees by the Kenyan government. According to a police official at Kakuma, the refugees were arrested and charged because they did not have travel permits. “Refugees would be required to obtain travel permit despite possessing the Refugee ID Cards,” said a camp management official.
On the 23rd May, 42 refugees were brought to Kakuma under the escort of two police officers and handed over to Officer Commanding Police Station (OCS). Officials from UNHCR and the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) also spoke with this group about their experience. The refugees complained to the camp officials about the mistreatment they suffered, loss of material and even hard cash taken from each individual by police at Eldoret Town.
In speaking with the Dayah bus management at Kakuma, they described the incident as accidental and that they have resumed normal operations. “What happened was accidental, our work will continue and refugees are travelling daily on these roads,” a ticketing manager told Kanere.
Nonetheless, refugees believe that the Kenyan government’s acceptance and provision of refugee Identity cards could solve the problems of restricted freedom of movement or police harassment, but such situations have not changed for better. The many complaints of refugees’ mistreatments and rights violations at the hands of government officials are entirely discrediting the Kenyan Refugee Act of 2006.