Nairobi — KENYAN police have arrested 17 refugees after protests by the migrants over some grievances turned violent.
More than 100 refugees have run amok over the past two weeks, allegedly beating up security guards at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR’s) office in the capital Nairobi and threatening UNHCR staff members.
They have blocked roads and come into direct physical confrontations with some police officers. Rocks have allegedly been thrown at law enforcers.
The refugees, including women and children, have camped in front of the UNHCR base. They allege sloth in the processing of their documents and corruption.
Protests have escalated since Wednesday. Police have used teargas to disperse the crowd.
“The situation, although largely calm, remains unpredictable,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s representative in Kenya.
Abdalla said they would continue to closely follow events.
The envoy urged protesting refugees to stop preventing others from accessing UNHCR premises for counselling, protection and assistance.
“We really hope that the violence of a few will not negatively impact the many other refugees living in Kenya,” she added.
Abdalla said UNHCR was committed to providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
“We continue to advocate with all concerned for dialogue and a peaceful resolution to the current situation.”
The riots coincide with plans by Kenya to close the Dabaab refugee centre, which houses thousands of Somali refugees.
Kenya claims economic and political challenges worsened at the site owing to infiltration by the Islamist al-Shabaab militants.