UNHCR has abandoned us - Nairobi Refugees



Make shift carton boxes double up as the walls of their homes and bedding.
This is the case in parts of Westlands, Nairobi, where more than 20 refugees have converted culverts and spaces beneath flyovers into make-shift homes.
They stay there while waiting for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to decide their fate.
The Star has followed the families for more than four months, some of their stories turning from ones of hope to gloom, and then desperation.
They have lost hope that the UNHCR will help them and fear violence will be meted on them because of the belief that they are an embarrassment.
The head of protection at UNHCR's office in Westlands turned down interviews on the matter while other officials remained tight-lipped.
Rose (real name withheld) says: "We are in limbo because we don't have money to give as bribes for our cases to be fast-tracked."
She says she fled Congo and settled in Kakuma, before leaving for Nairobi for safety, after her partner strangled her child and threatened to kill her.
While crying, a Somali woman said: “I came here so UNHCR can provide me with a safe place but there has been agony. I have been waiting for medical help...I could die here.”
A mother of three refuses to tell her story as it will not help.
Another whose family was killed in Mogadishu says: “I have been marked and even banned from setting foot at UNHCR offices because of persistently asking for medical aid for my mother."
She says the two of them fled to Nairobi in 2009.
“Two officials told officers, in my presence, never to attend to me."
Two men from DRC and Rwanda narrated that two months ago, their makeshift home near the agency's office was set ablaze and their plight covered by the media.
“We fear goons will come for us. Maybe some people want us to leave because we embarrass them. To them we are an eyesore and a bother because we don't have money to give as bribes for our cases to be settled," one said.
He said he and an Ethiopian ran away from Kakuma for security reasons and that their Congolese counterpart needed treatment.
A source familiar with UNHCR operations told The Star the agency is required to host refugees who go to them for security and medical reasons.
The refugees are to remain in safe houses until their cases are settled.
Similar allegations were made in October by registered refugees and a source familiar with both Refugee Affairs Secretariat and the UN refugee agency at Shauri Moyo.
The source claimed the agencies run a well coordinated syndicate that coerces and lures refugees to pay bribes, by frustrating them through unnecessary bureaucratic delays and threats of giving them up to police if they fail to comply.
At that time, the UN refugee agency denied allegations of bribery and sexual exploitation, and asked for more information.
“UNHCR has a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. It is unacceptable behaviour and is prohibited conduct for all UNHCR staff and its affiliated workforce,” said communications head Yvonne Ndege.
Source: The Star

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