IRC Destroys Refugee Hut on Allegations of Theft
Volume 1, Issue 4-5 / March-April 2009
IRC destroys a refugee’s building without forewarning, claiming that the iron sheets were “illegally” obtained.
On Monday the 13th of April, an International Rescue Committee (IRC) security staff escorted by police arrived to destroy a refugee’s building at the Sudanese market near Distribution Center One. An IRC officer claimed that the iron sheets used in the building’s construction were stolen properties of IRC.
The refugee, Benjamin, claims that he was not given a chance to explain himself to court where he would be judged guilty or innocent. “When they came I tried to protest, asking them which date or time these iron sheets were stolen, but the police told me to shut up and watched as my house was destroyed,” Benjamin reported to KANERE.
Benjamin says that he bought the iron sheets to build his shop from Sudanese refugees who had repatriated. Repatriating Sudanese were authorized by UNHCR to take their properties with them if they were returning by road; those who went by air were free to sell their properties as the air plan limited their luggage.
“This store of mine is where I earn my living. I usually buy things from refugees or Turkanas and sell to them,” Benjamin stated.
Benjamin claims that he was not informed that his building was to be destroyed. “Only the sanitation manager passed here and talked about iron sheets and left; after a few days they came for action.” Benjamin said he was provided with no written documents concerning the destruction, and was never called to discuss his case in the IRC offices.
On April 23, KANERE spoke to a staff working at the IRC Sanitation Office located in Kakuma One Zone One. He reported that the Sanitation Department destroys any non-latrine structure that is built with the type of iron sheets distributed exclusively for the purpose of building latrines. “If anyone refuses to cooperate, we take him to the police station or simply come with the police,” the IRC staff said.
When asked about the specific case of Benjamin, who claims that he bought his iron sheets from Sudanese who were repatriating, the IRC staff responded, “Yes, he is one to lose because everyone knows that those iron sheets are not the same as others here on the market; they are made for latrines only and it is the law.”
When asked whether the destruction of refugees’ buildings is against the law, the IRC staff said, “We are not doing this on our own; we usually go with policies and UNHCR is aware that we are discouraging anyone who might think of buying them [the iron sheets].”