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Too Many African Nations Fail Refugees
Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa, and South Africa each got a failing grade on USCRI's refugee report card for not adequately protecting refugees from violence and forcing refugees back across the border. Both and South Africa scored an F for arbitrarily detaining more than 200 refugees and denying them access to courts. Tanzania even made USCRI's Worst-Country-for-Refugees list for not letting refugees leave the camp and not allowing them to seek work. Refugees across the continent continue to suffer because governments are not living up to their commitment to refugees.
"I came home and saw the bodies of my family in the rubble," Adnan Haji, 19, who recently arrived in Dadaab Refugee Camp after fleeing North-West Mogadishu, explained to UNHCR. A shell had hit his home and killed his entire family. "I will never get that image out of my head. I took a bus and then walked for two days to get here, but I don't feel safe anywhere, not even here."
Innocent Somalia civilians are not only facing escalating violence once again, but as they flee to save their lives, they encounter additional mistreatment at the hands of Kenyan authorities.
For instance, a 17-year-old girl from Somalia seeking safety in Kenya was raped by Kenyan security forces. Moreover, the Kenyan security forces have forced hundreds of other refugees from her country back across the border and into certain peril. Other refugees were beaten and had to pay bribes to officials as they were trying to reach the Dadaab refugee camp.
As fighting continues to put civilians in harm's way, some 66,000 new Somali refugees arrived at Dadaab, filling the refugee camp three times beyond its capacity, which caused serious shortages of water, shelter, and other basic necessities. While Kenyan authorities need to better protect these refugees, the international community has to be better prepared to receive the refugees.
Further south, in Namibia, a group of 41 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo received death threats after complaining to Namibian government officials about the unsafe and unlivable conditions at the Osire refugee camp outside of Namibia's capital Fearing for their lives, they fled the refugee camp and were trapped for weeks in the no-man's land between Botswana and Namibia with nowhere to go and no one to help them.
just a few examples of government failures to protect refugees. But the
U.N. as well as U.S. and other western governments have further failed
refugees across Africa and other parts of the world by allowing refugees
to be warehoused in camps for 10, 20, 30 or more years without such
basic human rights as freedom of movement, protection from violence, and
the right to support their families.
But the news is not all bad for refugees in Africa. Niger, for instance, leads the way as one of the best countries for refugees on the continent. Contrary to popular belief, a country does not have to be wealthy in order to provide refugees with humane living conditions and basic rights. One of the poorest nations in the world -- coming in last on the United Nations Human Development Index -- yet Niger earns an almost-perfect refugee report card.
A few reasons why Niger's refugee system works include the fact that there are no refugee camps in Niger, refugees are free to travel within the country and they can choose their place of residence. As long as they can document their refugee status, they have the same access to public relief, education, and tuition assistance as nationals, and for the most part, they are allowed to support their families without any restrictions.
Also on the list of countries considered among the best for refugees in Africa are Senegal, Malawi, Botswana, and Congo-Brazzaville. Botswana and Malawi provide refugees with good protection, Senegal gives refugees access to courts and the freedom to move and travel, and both Congo-Brazzaville and Malawi allow refugees to work to support themselves.
Source: USCRI News, August 2009