Ethiopia Exports: Oromo Refugees, Fear and Destitution in Kenya

Original Photo : OSGAnnual Report|Oromia Support Group*

The following is summary of a report by Oromo Relief Association UK and the Oromia Support Group based on a field study in Kenya funded by the Big Lottery Fund, UK. 

In an intensive two week investigation into health and security needs of Oromo refugees in Kenya, 58 were interviewed in Kakuma and Dadaab camps and in two estates in Nairobi. Refugees reported very high levels of torture and rape in Ethiopia. Out of 27 men who were interviewed, 25 had been detained and 20 (80%) of former detainees had been tortured. Out of 31 women interviewed, 16 had been detained. Nine (56%) of these had been raped in detention. One other was raped by a soldier in her home.

The refugees complained of excessive delays in status determination by UNHCR, often due to repeatedly postponed appointments, and voiced their frustration in waiting long periods for resettlement opportunities. They believed that other groups were more successful in being resettled, sometimes using false Oromo identities. Although instances of this undoubtedly occur, it was not possible to confirm whether or not there is a significant difference in the rates of resettlement between groups. UNHCR has an impossible workload and in many ways copes admirably under difficult circumstances. Means of distinguishing genuine Oromo claimants were explored.

The main problems expressed were related to security and mental health. Refugees in Kakuma, especially unaccompanied women, lived in fear of attack by thieves and rapists. In the Dadaab camps, racist abuse and violence from Somalis severely restricted economic and social life. Misery and mental ill-health were worse in the camps than in Nairobi.

Insecurity from police is possibly declining in Eastleigh estate, Nairobi, but theft and rape remain serious problems, again most severely affecting unaccompanied women. Security threats from agents of the Ethiopia government are much more severe in Nairobi than in the camps. Some reported threats are due to fear and paranoia. Others are invented in order to promote chances of resettlement. However, significant and serious security threats from those acting on behalf of the Ethiopian government are common and affect large numbers of refugees. Detailed accounts of the refoulement of five mandated refugees and an account of three awaiting refugee status determination were recorded.

The Full Report from Oromia Support Group:

*The Oromia Support Group (OSG) is a non-political organisation which attempts to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Ethiopia. OSG lobbies governments to withdraw support from the Ethiopian government until it abides by its constitution which guarantees human rights and self-determination for all peoples of Ethiopia.



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