Somali refugees kicked out of Kenya

NAIROBI - Authorities were yesterday deporting dozens of Somali refugees who had fled to Kenya from violence in lawless Somalia as the government tightened security on the frontier.

A day after Ethiopian helicopters missed their Islamist targets, instead bombing positions in Kenya, police escorted the refugees across the border into Somalia from a registration centre in Liboi, insisting they were under instructions not to allow them to stay.

"We have returned 46 refugees back into Somalia. We will not allow anyone in," a police commander said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesday said about 4000 Somalis were stranded in the Somali town of Dhobley waiting to cross into the country.

The Kenyan government also blocked the Kenya Red Cross Society from reaching the refugee reception centre in Liboi, about 550km northeast of the capital, where about 360 refugees were, UN officials said.

"We are disturbed by reports we are getting that people seeking asylum are being sent back because this amounts to contravention of the international humanitarian law," said Millicent Mutuli, the spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

On Tuesday, Ethiopian helicopters pursuing Somali Islamists missed their targets and bombed a Kenyan border post, leaving no casualties or structural damage, but highlighting the intensity of the pursuit.

Kenyan police said they were still holding eight men, including Eritreans and one with a Canadian passport, arrested after crossing the border and suspected of fighting alongside the vanquished Islamists.

The Somali government and their Ethiopian backers have vowed to pursue the Islamists, who are accused of links with al-Qaeda, a charge they reject.

Kenya already hosts at least 160000 refugees who fled fighting in more than 15 years of unrest in Somalia. - Sapa-AFP