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Djibouti

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law generally provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government collaborated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to draft and pass a comprehensive refugee law, ensuring refugees’ right to health, education, and the right to work. The National Assembly adopted the refugee law on December 26.

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The government maintained an increased police presence at the Ali Addeh refugee camp following the 2014 attack on La Chaumiere restaurant. Separately, gendarmes maintained a presence at the Markazi refugee camp. Refugees had limited legal protections since there were no permanent courts within the camps or in neighboring communities.

Refugees, however, reported abuse and attacks to the National Office for Assistance to Refugees and Populations Affected by Disaster (ONARS) and UNHCR. With the support of the local National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD), mobile courts traveled to the largest camp, Ali Addeh, to hear the backlog of pending cases. During the year UNFD also placed a full-time staff member in all refugee camps to provide support for domestic violence victims. Cases of domestic violence were reported, although the status of subsequent investigations was unknown. Impunity remained a problem.

The government detained and deported large numbers of irregular migrants, primarily from Ethiopia. The government sometimes gave individual irregular migrants the opportunity to claim asylum status, after which the National Eligibility Commission was supposed to determine their status. The commission did not sit during the year until July 24. More than 8,042 asylum seekers awaited decisions on their asylum claims.

In-country Movement: Due to the continuing border dispute with Eritrea, certain areas in the north remained under military control.

Foreign Travel: Opposition members reported immigration officials prevented them from boarding international flights.

For example, on August 9, gendarmes stopped Union for National Salvation (USN) Secretary General Abdourahman Mohamed Guelleh at the entrance of the Ambouli airport, preventing him from boarding his international flight. Government officials stated Guelleh could not leave the country until his case concerning alleged involvement in the December 2015 incident was closed. He remained released on probation. On July 12, the Supreme Court dismissed Guelleh’s case, but the state prosecutor overturned the decision. Guelleh’s case remained pending.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Asylum seekers from southern Somalia and Yemen are, prima facie, considered eligible for asylum or refugee status. All other asylum claims must be reviewed by the National Eligibility Commission, which falls under the Ministry of Interior and consists of staff from ONARS and several ministries; UNHCR participates as an observer.

According to UNHCR the country hosted more than 19,000 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from south and central Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, in two refugee camps in the southern region of Ali Sabieh. An additional estimated 4,800 individuals from Ethiopia, Yemen, Somalia, and other nations lived in urban areas, primarily in Djibouti City. Due to Ethiopia’s instability in August and September, the country permitted more than 5,000 Ethiopians, particularly those from the Oromia, to register as asylum seekers.

In the past most new Somali refugees arrived at the Ali Addeh camp, which reached maximum capacity several years previously. To reduce congestion, in 2012 UNHCR and ONARS reopened a second camp at Holl-Holl. UNHCR and ONARS completed a validation census of refugees in camps and in Djibouti City in January and identified those who arrived after 2009 for voluntary relocation to the new camp.

The country also hosted refugees fleeing violence in Yemen starting in March 2015. ONARS and UNHCR registered approximately 6,000 refugees from Yemen, at least 2,800 of whom lived in a refugee camp in the northern region of Obock.

Organizational difficulties and resource constraints prevented ONARS and UNHCR from providing adequate services to refugees in all camps and in Djibouti City, including the prompt processing of asylum claims.

Due to the unresolved conflict begun in 2008 between Djibouti and Eritrea and the mandatory military conscription policy of the Eritrean government, the government considered Eritrean detainees as deserters from the Eritrean military rather than refugees. Beginning in 2011, however, the government allowed UNHCR to screen and resettle more than 200 Eritrean detainees imprisoned at Nagad in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In 2014 authorities released the 266 remaining Eritreans from Nagad and placed them in the Ali Addeh refugee camp. During the year the government continued to facilitate resettlement of this group. The government agreed to release 18 Eritrean detainees if the ICRC could resettle them to a third country. By year’s end the ICRC had not found a third country for resettlement of the 18 detainees.

Refoulement: The government did not routinely grant refugee or asylum status to groups other than southern Somalis and–beginning in March 2015–Yemenis. A backlog in asylum status determinations put individuals waiting for their screening at risk of expulsion to countries where they might be threatened. In 2014 two suicide bombers from Somalia attacked La Chaumiere restaurant in Djibouti’s city center, killing one victim and severely injuring others. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for this attack. After the attack, authorities closed the border with Somalia to refugees and stopped new registration and refugee status determination processes. Although the border remained officially closed during 2015, UNHCR reported the government allowed new arrivals into the country. The government also resumed the refugee status determination process in June 2015, hosting several sessions of the National Eligibility Commission each month thereafter.

Because of the presidential election and subsequent cabinet reshuffle, the National Eligibility Commission did not conduct interviews during the year until July 24. The Ministry of Interior-led commission met monthly from July to year’s end to reduce the backlog.

Because of resource constraints and limited capacity, the government did not proactively screen irregular migrants to determine if they were trafficking victims before returning them to their home countries.

Most of these cases involved Ethiopian nationals, whom government officials often identified as economic migrants. The government, working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), continued its efforts to differentiate refugees from irregular migrants. A lack of staff and other resources, however, impeded accurate vetting, particularly in light of the large number of irregular migrants transiting the country to Yemen and migrants deported from Yemen to Djibouti.

Employment: Scarce resources and employment opportunities limited local integration of refugees. Documented refugees were allowed to work with a work permit, and many (especially women) did so in jobs such as house cleaning, babysitting, or construction. There was little recourse to challenge working conditions or ensure fair payment for labor.

Access to Basic Services: The Ali Addeh camp was overcrowded, and basic services such as potable water were inadequate. The Holl-Holl camp was not overcrowded and had better access to potable water than the Ali Addeh camp. The government continued to issue birth certificates to children born in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps. ONARS and UNHCR completed a refugee verification exercise in January 2015, which allowed ONARS and UNHCR officials to issue identification cards to all refugees older than 15 years in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps and in Djibouti City. UNHCR and ONARS resumed resettlement activities in 2015, which had been on hold since 2012.

ONARS and UNHCR established the Markazi refugee camp in May 2015 after Yemenis began arriving in Djibouti following the eruption of violence in Yemen. The Markazi camp provided Yemeni refugees with basic services such as water, food, shelter, and medical services. The government issued birth certificates to children born in the Markazi refugee camp. ONARS and UNHCR also began issuing identification cards to Yemeni refugees.

For the first time, the government agreed to create a new Ministry of Education-recognized English curriculum for the 2017-18 academic year for more than 12,000 refugee children in the refugee camps. Previously UNHCR provided refugees in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps with a Kenya-adapted curriculum taught in English and French that was not recognized by Kenyan and Djiboutian authorities.

Refugees in the Markazi camp had access to instruction based on a Yemeni and Saudi curriculum taught in Arabic.

Durable Solutions: In conjunction with IOM, the government continued to support vocational training for young refugees. These training programs have resulted in a small number of refugees finding local employment.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to a limited number of individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Authorities often jailed irregular migrants identified as economic migrants attempting to transit the country to enter Yemen and returned them to their countries of origin. The government worked with IOM to provide adequate health services to these migrants while they awaited deportation. IOM and the Ministry of Health have a Memorandum of Understanding permitting IOM to provide health supplies to hospitals in the “migration corridor” in Northern Djibouti, as well as enabling the ministry to have a health unit in IOM’s Migration Resource Center in Obock.

Eritrea

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law and unimplemented constitution provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government restricted all these rights. It often denied citizens passports and exit visas because they had not completed their military duties or arbitrarily for no given reason.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide protection and assistance in some areas, but it restricted UNHCR activities in others. The government defined refugee status differently than do the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. It did not recognize Ethiopians or Sudanese as refugees, although it allowed them to remain in the country and granted them residency permits. It routinely provided protection to Somali refugees.

UNHCR reported that in May the government halted all resettlement of Somali refugees from the Umkulu Refugee Camp. It ceased issuing exit visas for Somali refugees who were already approved for resettlement in third countries. Additionally, the government prevented Somali refugees in Umkulu from voluntarily repatriating to Somalia, prevented officials from resettlement countries from entering the country to screen additional resettlement candidates, and prevented candidates from exiting the country to be screened in resettlement countries. In November without explanation, the government expelled the UNHCR associate refugee protection officer.

In-country Movement: The government requires citizens to notify local authorities when they change residence, although many did not. When traveling within the country, particularly in remote regions or near borders, authorities required citizens to provide justification for travel at the few checkpoints in the country.

Travel restrictions on noncitizens lawfully in the country remained in effect. The government required all diplomats, international humanitarian workers, UN staff, and foreigners to request permission from the government at least 10 days in advance to travel more than 15.5 miles outside of Asmara. Authorities shortened this waiting period considerably for diplomats who had resided in country for an extended period. Authorities gave UNHCR staff a monthly permit to visit Umkulu Refugee Camp.

Foreign Travel: The government restricted foreign travel. The government required citizens, including dual nationals, to obtain exit visas to depart the country if they entered on an Eritrean passport or residency card. Requirements for obtaining passports and exit visas were inconsistent and nontransparent. Authorities generally did not give exit visas to children ages five and older. Authorities granted few adolescents exit permits; many parents avoided seeking exit permits for children approaching national service draft age due to concern authorities might also deny them permission to travel. Categories of persons most commonly denied exit visas included men under age 54, regardless of whether they had completed the military portion of national service, and women younger than 30, unless they had children. The government did not generally grant exit permits to members of the citizen militia, although some whom authorities demobilized from national service or who had permission from their zone commanders were able to obtain them.

Exile: There were reports of citizens who left the country without exit visas being denied reentry. Many other citizens who fled the country remained in self-imposed exile due to their religious and political views and fear they would be conscripted into national service if they returned. Others reported there were no consequences for returning citizens who had residency or citizenship in other countries.

Emigration and Repatriation: To prevent emigration the government generally did not grant exit visas to entire families or both spouses simultaneously. Authorities arrested persons who tried to cross the border and leave without exit visas.

The COI found the government, largely the armed forces and particularly the border surveillance division, had implemented a shoot-to-kill policy for a “considerable period of time.” In its June 8 report, the COI stated that it had “reliable evidence” that the policy still existed, but was “not implemented as rigorously as it was in the past.”

In general citizens had the right to return, but citizens residing abroad had to show proof they paid the 2 percent tax on foreign earned income to be eligible for some government services and documents, including exit permits, birth or marriage certificates, passport renewals, and real estate transactions. The government enforced this inconsistently. Persons known to have broken laws abroad, contracted serious contagious diseases, or to have been declared ineligible for political asylum by other governments had their visas and visa requests to enter the country considered with greater scrutiny.

Citizenship: In 1994 the government revoked the citizenship of members of Jehovah’s Witnesses due to their refusal to take part in the referendum on independence or participate in the military portion of national service. Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses who did not perform military service continued to be unable to obtain official identification documents. They were not eligible for jobs in the formal economy or for ration coupons to buy essentials at government-subsidized prices.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not specifically provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, although the government offered protection to some individuals from neighboring countries, predominantly Somali refugees. The government did not grant Ethiopians or Sudanese asylum, although it allowed them to remain in the country and granted them residency permits that enabled them to access government services. The government required Ethiopians to pay an annual fee of 600 nakfa ($40) for a residency card. The card demonstrated the holder was not indigent.

Employment: There did not appear to be discrimination based on nationality in terms of employment or entitlements with the exception of resident Ethiopians, some of whom the government viewed as potential security risks.

Access to Basic Services: Persons of Ethiopian and Sudanese origin living in the country sometimes claimed they received social entitlements commensurate with the perceived degree of their loyalty to the government, including eligibility for ration coupons to buy essentials at government-subsidized prices. Most Somalis were restricted to Umkulu Refugee Camp.

Ethiopians and Somalis were able to access basic government services upon procuring and presenting residency permits. UNHCR reported significant delays in the issuance of exit visas for Somali refugees in Umkulu Refugee Camp that caused it to raise concerns with the government regarding the implementation of durable solutions.

Durable Solutions: The government did not grant persons of Ethiopian and Sudanese origin asylum or refugee status; however, authorities permitted them to remain in the country and to live among the local population instead of in a refugee camp. Authorities granted them granted residency permits that enabled them to access government services. Authorities granted Sudanese and Ethiopians exit visas to leave the country for resettlement and study.

Ethiopia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

Although the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the state of emergency regulations restricted internal movement. The government also restricted freedom of internal movement and foreign travel.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. At times authorities or armed groups limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in areas of insecurity, such as on the country’s borders.

In-country Movement: The state of emergency regulations prohibited diplomats from travelling more than 25 miles outside of Addis Ababa without prior notification to and approval from the command post. The government lifted this restriction in early November. Security concerns forced a temporary halt of deliveries of food and other humanitarian assistance in limited areas in Amhara and Oromia regions.

Foreign Travel: A 2013 ban on unskilled workers travelling to the Middle East for employment continued. The ban did not affect citizens travelling for investment or other business reasons. The government stated it issued the ban to prevent harassment, intimidation, and trauma suffered by those working abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as domestic employees.

There were several reports of authorities restricting foreign travel, similar to the following case: On March 23, National Intelligence and Security Service officials at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa prevented Merera Gudina, chairman of the OFC, from departing the country. On June 15, Merera was permitted to leave. Authorities arrested him on December 1.

Authorities restricted travel of persons in the Zone 9 case. For example, authorities confiscated blogger Zelalem Kibret’s passport in November 2015 and prevented him from boarding his international flight. Airport security officials said he could not leave the country because he had previously been arrested. Authorities returned Zelalem’s passport on June 1, and he was later permitted to travel abroad.

Exile: As in past years, citizens including journalists and others remained abroad in self-imposed exile due to fear of government retribution should they return.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were 684,064 IDPs between August 2015 and August, including protracted and new cases, many of them due to the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon. This was an increase compared with previous years.

Of the IDPs, 397,296 were displaced by flooding and conflict while 188,244 were displaced due to the effects of the drought related to El Nino. Another 33,300 were displaced due to resource-based competition. Most of those affected by El Nino returned to their places of origin.

IOM estimated 657, 224 individuals were considered “protracted IDPs,” meaning they lacked durable solutions such as local integration, internal resettlement, or return to home. The reasons for protracted displacements included interclan and cross-border conflict, natural disasters, political or community considerations in IDP resettlements, and lack of resettlement resources. Of these IDPs, 283,092 resided in Somali Region; 148,482 in Afar; 144,295 in Oromia; 47,950 in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region; 13,245 in Amhara; 2,290 in Dire Dawa; and 2,055 in Harar. An additional 15,815 individuals displaced by flooding were still on the move and thus could not be attributed to any one region.

IOM reported in August 41,316 individuals or 7,844 households were internally displaced in Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regions, due to conflict and flooding. From August 24 through mid-September, approximately 8,000 individuals moved from Amhara Region to northwestern Tigray Region. Many of the IDPs cited as the reason for their departure recent conflicts in the region and a generalized sense they could be targeted because of their ethnicity (Tigrayan). The federal government allocated six million birr ($266,361) to Tigray Region for the IDP response. The funds were distributed among Hemera, Axum, Mekele, and Shire, which were the towns with the greatest IDP influx. The largest volume of arrivals was in Shire, which received 2.6 million birr ($115,423) of the region’s total. The federal government established a committee led by the Tigray Regional Agriculture Department to seek permanent integration options for the IDPs.

The IOM estimated an April 15 attack in Gambella Region by Murle ethnic group from South Sudan displaced more than 21,000 individuals (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).

The government, through the Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector (DRMFSS), continued to play an active role in delivering humanitarian assistance to IDPs. Federal and local DRMFSS officials coordinated with IOM and its partners in monitoring IDP populations.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The state of emergency regulations prohibited entering the country without a visa.

According to UNHCR, the country hosted 743,732 refugees as of August. The majority of refugees were from South Sudan (281,612) and Somalia (254,277), with others from Eritrea (161,615), Sudan (39,317), and other countries. There were 1,554 registered Yemeni asylum seekers.

UNHCR, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, and humanitarian agencies continued to care for Sudanese arrivals fleeing from conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile State, averaging 1,500 new arrivals per month, according to UNHCR. The government also extended support to asylum seekers from South Sudan, mostly arriving from Upper Nile and Unity states. Persistent conflict and food insecurity prompted the flow of South Sudanese refugees into the country; there were an estimated 2,712 arrivals during August.

Eritrean asylum seekers continued to arrive. Approximately 23 percent were unaccompanied minors. Many who arrived regularly departed for secondary migration through Egypt and Sudan to go to Europe and other final destinations.

Freedom of movement: The state of emergency regulations prohibited leaving refugee camps without permission from an authorized body. The government continued a policy that allowed some Eritrean refugees to live outside a camp. The government gave such permission primarily for persons to attend higher-education institutions, undergo medical treatment, or avoid security threats at the camps.

Employment: The government does not grant refugees work permits.

Durable Solutions: The government welcomed refugees to settle in the country but did not offer a path to citizenship or provide integration. The government supported a policy allowing some refugees to live outside camps and engage in informal livelihoods. Refugee students who passed the required tests could attend university with fees paid by the government and UNHCR.

Kenya

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights but increasingly enforced restrictions on refugees’ movements. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Police abuse of asylum seekers and refugees continued, with most reports coming from Nairobi’s predominantly Somali Eastleigh neighborhood.

Witnesses alleged security forces routinely confiscated or destroyed both expired and valid UN refugee documents and frequently demanded bribes to release persons in detention or in the process of arrest. According to media and NGO reports, police and military personnel mistreated refugees in retaliation for al-Shabaab attacks on security personnel.

The security situation in Dadaab remained precarious, although no new attacks on humanitarian workers occurred. Increased police presence in the camps led to some improvements and cooperation with refugees through community policing and neighborhood watch initiatives. Violence also occasionally flared over Dadaab host community protests about employment and priority contract rights related to the camp.

Gender-based violence remained a problem in both the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps and in Nairobi, particularly for vulnerable populations including women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) refugees. Reported incidents included domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, physical assault, psychological abuse, FGM/C, and forced marriage, particularly of young Sudanese, South Sudanese, and Somali girls. Refugee communities sometimes targeted opponents of FGM/C. Health and social workers in Kakuma refugee camp reported that, due to strong rape-awareness programs in the camp, survivors increasingly reported such incidents, resulting in improved access to counseling. In the Dadaab refugee camp, however, the government’s limited effectiveness and UNHCR’s restricted access and limited ability to provide services or protection resulted in higher numbers of cases of gender-based violence and underreporting of crimes and abuse, particularly against women and girls.

While mobile courts continued to serve the camp populations, most crimes went unreported. Refugees generally dealt with criminality in accordance with customary law and traditional practices rather than through the country’s justice system. Other security problems in refugee camps included petty theft, banditry, ethnic violence, and the harassment of Muslim converts to Christianity, according to UNHCR.

In-country Movement: The country hosted a very large refugee population. Prolonged insecurity and conflict in the region forced the country to play a leading role in coping with refugee flows, especially from Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Ethiopia. The government’s appeal of a 2013 High Court ruling that blocked a plan to relocate all urban refugees to camps remained unresolved. The government enforced an encampment policy, with Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps as the designated areas for refugees (see Protection below).

The government granted limited travel permission to refugees to receive specialized medical care outside the camps, to refugees enrolled in public schools, and to refugees in the resettlement pipeline. It made exceptions to the encampment policy for extremely vulnerable groups in need of protection. The government continued to provide in-country movement and exit permits for refugee interviews and departures for third-country resettlement.

From January through July, the Department of Refugee Affairs issued 2,896 temporary movement passes to refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR reported that approximately 90 percent of the individuals returned to their camps by the time their passes expired. Authorities charged 240 refugees and asylum seekers with being unlawfully present in the country (under the Citizenship and Immigration Act) and residing without authority outside designated areas (under the Refugees Act). Of the 240 refugees and asylum seekers, authorities discharged 133 and returned them to the camps, convicted 98 and ordered them to pay fines or serve three to six months in prison, and continued the cases of nine as of year’s end.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The National Consultative Coordination Committee on IDPs (the committee) was created by the Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act of 2012 (IDP Act); however, the committee did not meet and begin to implement the IDP Act until April 2015. According to the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, in 2015 the committee completed the resettlement of more than 10,000 IDPs who remained in camps after the 2007-08 postelection violence.

Violence in Mandera County in 2014 between the communities of Mandera North District and Banisa District, and on the border between Mandera and Wajir Counties, resulted in displacement of an estimated 32,000 households. According to the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, the committee provided Mandera County with financial assistance for 6,890 IDP households that had not been able to return home, and construction of new homes had commenced.

Water scarcity exacerbated communal conflict and left an unknown number of citizens internally displaced. IDPs from all locations generally congregated in informal settlements and camps. Living conditions in such settlements and camps remained poor, with rudimentary housing and little public infrastructure or services. Grievances and violence between IDPs and host communities were generally resource based and occurred when IDPs attempted to graze livestock or gather food and fuel locally. In the north IDP settlements primarily consisted of displaced ethnic Ethiopians and Somalis and were targets of clan and resource-based violence.

The Ministry of Devolution and Planning reported that citizens who had fled a 2015 security operation to flush al-Shabaab from the Boni Forest in Lamu and southern Garissa Counties returned to their homes.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to camp-based refugees. While the government generally coordinated with UNHCR to provide assistance and protection to refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, cooperation was limited in urban areas. Security threats emanating from Somalia strained the government’s ability to provide security to those seeking asylum, especially in Dadaab. The government permitted registration of new refugee arrivals only during specific time periods–most recently between July and August 2015. Since that time, no registration of new arrivals took place, and there were an estimated 4,000 unregistered persons of concern, mostly from Somalia, in need of adjudication. In May the government revoked prima facie status–a group determination of refugee status–for newly arrived asylum seekers from Somalia and did not provide individual refugee status determination to new Somali refugee arrivals.

According to UNHCR, as of October the country hosted more than 500,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers: in Dadaab refugee camp an estimated 282,200, in Kakuma camp approximately 158,200, and in the Nairobi area an estimated 63,800. The unofficial estimate of refugees in urban areas was nearly 100,000. The majority of refugees and asylum seekers were from Somalia (334,728), with others coming from South Sudan (90,247), the DRC (27,485), Ethiopia (26,742), Sudan (9,790), and other countries (13,202). Most refugees arriving in Kakuma were from South Sudan, and the refugee population in Dadaab was primarily of Somali origin. New arrivals also included individuals from Burundi, the DRC, Ethiopia, and Uganda. The Somali refugee influx was lower than in previous years. In 2013 the governments of Kenya and Somalia and UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement, which expired in November; it established a legal framework and process for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees when conditions permitted such returns. Under the agreement UNHCR began facilitating voluntary returns to Somalia in December 2014 and had supported the return of more than 30,200 Somali refugees as of October 25.

In May the government again announced that it planned to close the Dadaab camps for reasons of security and economic burdens when the tripartite agreement expired in November; however, in mid-November the government announced it would close the camp within six months. Officially, the country encouraged Somali refugees to return voluntarily to Somalia. UNHCR continued to provide both financial and transportation support to refugees voluntarily returning to Somalia. In September, NGO Human Rights Watch released a report that questioned the voluntariness of Somali refugee returns from Kenya and accused officials of violating international law by intimidating refugees into returning to insecure conditions in Somalia. In November, Amnesty International also issued a report alleging the government was forcing refugees to return to Somalia.

In addition to the May announcement of plans to close Dadaab, the government also in May disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs and replaced it with a new Refugee Affairs Secretariat to carry out the department’s previous work.

Negotiations concerning land for a new camp near Kakuma among UNHCR, the government, and host community in Turkana County concluded in 2015. The county governor signed over land to UNHCR for the new Kalobeyei Integrated Refugee Settlement, planned to host 60,000 refugees and benefit thousands of Kenyan nationals from the host community once completed. The new model was designed, in coordination with Turkana County, to increase the economic integration of refugees with the host community and improve access to income-generating activities, education, and health care for both refugees and citizens.

No official national refugee count existed because the government stopped registering refugees in urban areas in 2012 and in Dadaab camp in 2011. In Kakuma there remained a backlog of cases for registration and refugee status determination of new refugees. This backlog was compounded when the government disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs.

Refoulement: On November 2, the government forcibly sent South Sudanese opposition spokesman James Gatdet Dak to South Sudan, despite the risk of torture. In a statement UNHCR expressed its deep concern, noting that Dak had previously been granted refugee status by Kenyan authorities.

There were also multiple reports released by advocacy organizations alleging undue government pressure on refugees in Dadaab camp to repatriate voluntarily to Somalia and that inadequate information was provided to prospective refugees about conditions in areas of return inside Somalia.

STATELESS PERSONS

The constitution and the 2011 Citizen and Immigration Act provide for the protection of stateless persons and for legal avenues for eligible stateless persons to apply for citizenship. In September, UNHCR estimated that 20,000 stateless persons were registered in the country; the actual number, however, was unknown. According to UNHCR stateless persons accounted for 3.5 percent of all registered refugees and asylum seekers in the country. Communities known to UNHCR as stateless included Sudanese Nubians in Nairobi, the Somali Galjeel in the Tana River area, the Mozambican Makonde in Mombasa, and the Pemba in Kwale. There were also a number of stateless persons of mixed Eritrean-Ethiopian heritage. On October 13, President Kenyatta issued a directive that the government should issue national identity cards to all eligible Makonde persons by December and ensure that members of the community are issued title deeds for land they own. The Makonde applicants had not received their cards or title deeds at year’s end.

Although legal safeguards and pathways to citizenship for stateless persons exist, the government lacked a strategy to identify and register them, significantly limiting their ability to acquire legal residence or citizenship. Stateless persons had limited legal protection and encountered travel restrictions, social exclusion, and heightened vulnerability to trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation, forced displacement, and other abuses. UNHCR reported that stateless persons faced restrictions on internal movement and limited access to basic services, property ownership, and registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Inadequate documentation sometimes resulted in targeted harassment and extortion by law enforcement officials and exploitation in the informal labor sector.

National registration policies require citizens age 18 and older to register and obtain national identification documents from the National Registration Bureau. Failure to do so is a crime. Groups with historical or ethnic ties to other countries faced higher burdens of proof in the registration process. For example, Nubians, along with ethnic Somalis (such as the Galjeel community) and Muslims on the coast, experienced discriminatory registration policies that led to statelessness, according to UNHCR and domestic legal aid organizations (see section 3).

The deadline for stateless persons to apply to be considered for citizenship expired on August 30. Article 15(2) of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2011 provides that the cabinet secretary may extend that deadline for three years. It was unclear as of October if there would be an extension.

Many stateless persons did not qualify for protection under the local refugee determination apparatus. Among these were Somali refugees born in Kenyan refugee camps and Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees.

Pursuant to the 2011 finding by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child that the government should grant citizenship to children of Nubian descent, during the year the government established a vetting committee of Nubian elders to identify children of Nubian descent who are eligible for registration. As of year’s end the committee had not completed this process.

In 2013 then cabinet secretary for land charity Ngilu announced the allocation of 300 acres of public land to a private group representing the Nubian Council of Elders for the settlement of stateless persons. The cabinet secretary, however, left office before the titles were transferred, and there was no progress on this matter. The Nubian Council of Elders sought additional assistance from civil society organizations to obtain the land titles. The council asserted an ancestral claim to approximately 700 acres of land, including the large Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi. UNHCR reported that the National Action Plan to eradicate statelessness in Kenya had been completed but not yet approved by the government.

Mali

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing humanitarian assistance, including some protection services, to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: While in-country movement was not formally restricted, the army established checkpoints to maintain security, and the unstable security situation limited freedom of movement. The populations of Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu, and parts of Mopti feared leaving the cities for security reasons, including the threat from roadside bombs (see section 1.g.). Conditions at the beginning of the year encouraged some refugees and IDPs to return to their homes in the north, but subsequent incidents of insecurity slowed the rate of returns. The government facilitated travel to the north for IDPs who lacked the means to pay for their travel.

Police routinely stopped and checked citizens and foreigners to restrict the movement of contraband and verify vehicle registrations. The number of police checkpoints on roads entering Bamako and inside the city increased after a rise in extremist attacks across the country. Journalists often complained that the government, citing security concerns, did not allow them to move freely in the north during military operations.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The Commission on Population Movement, led by the International Organization for Migration, estimated the country had 39,182 IDPs as of July 31, a 37-percent decline from the previous year. Fighting in late July in Kidal, however, led to reports of as many as several thousand Tuareg IDPs, who left Kidal on instruction of GATIA forces. Humanitarian access in the northern regions generally improved following the June 2015 signing of the Peace Accord, although insecurity related to terrorism and banditry remained a challenge in much of the country.

The Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection registered IDPs, and the government provided them assistance. IDPs generally lived with relatives, friends, or in rented accommodations. Most IDPs resided in urban areas and had access to food, water, and other forms of assistance. As many as half of all displaced families lacked official identity documents needed to facilitate access to public services, including schools for children, although identification was not required for humanitarian assistance. Aid groups provided humanitarian assistance to IDPs residing in the south and north as access permitted.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. A national committee in charge of refugees operated with assistance from UNHCR. A 2012 tripartite agreement between Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and UNHCR allows for repatriation of the estimated 1,040 Ivoirian refugees and 69 Ivoirian asylum seekers remaining in Mali. According to UNHCR, as of March 31, there were 13,539 registered refugees residing in the country, the majority of whom were Afro-Mauritanian refugees expelled from Mauritania in 1989 and their children. At a meeting between UNHCR and ministers from the Economic Community of West African States, the government committed itself to assisting all Mauritanian refugees who wished to integrate locally with a declaration of intention to facilitate their naturalization. In March 2015 the government issued birth certificates to nearly 8,000 refugee children born in the country as part of its commitment to facilitate local integration for Afro-Mauritanian refugees, allowing them to access public services, sign employment contracts, buy and sell land, set up companies, and borrow from banks.

Temporary Protection: The government’s Office of International Migration is responsible for providing temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. The National Commission for Refugees adjudicates refugee or asylum claims and provides temporary protection pending a decision on whether to grant asylum.

Somalia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The provisional federal constitution states that all persons lawfully residing in the country have the right to freedom of movement, to choose their residence, and to leave the country. Freedom of movement, however, was restricted in some areas.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees lacked access to protection through law enforcement and the justice system. Refugees reported incidents of extortion, robbery, and sexual violence to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The government and Somaliland authorities cooperated with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

During the year dialogue continued between humanitarian agencies, the FGS, and regional authorities to remove checkpoints and facilitate movement of humanitarian assistance, food aid, and essential commodities.

In-country Movement: Checkpoints operated by government forces, allied groups, armed militias, clan factions, and al-Shabaab inhibited movement and exposed citizens to looting, extortion, harassment, and violence. Roadblocks manned by armed actors and attacks on humanitarian personnel severely restricted movement and the delivery of aid in southern and central sectors of the country.

Al-Shabaab and other nonstate armed actors continued to ban commercial activities in the areas they controlled in the Bakool, Bay, Gedo, and Hiraan Regions and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance. For example, on June 19, armed men attacked and looted a truck convoy contracted by a humanitarian agency to deliver food aid and supplies in the Bakool Region and destroyed the vehicles.

Attacks against humanitarian workers and assets impeded the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations. During the first seven months of the year, there were more than 90 violent incidents targeting humanitarian agencies, as a result of which seven humanitarian workers were killed and eight injured, 10 were arrested, three abducted, and five assaulted while in detention. On July 26, a UNHCR staff member, 13 UNHCR employees, and 11 security personnel were killed during an al-Shabaab attack on the UNHCR compound in Mogadishu.

Somaliland prohibited federal officials, including those of Somaliland origin who purported to represent Hargeisa’s interests in Mogadishu, from entering Somaliland. It also prevented its citizens from traveling to Mogadishu to participate in FGS processes or in cultural activities.

IGA officials denied entry to Puntland residents and continued to arrest drivers with Puntland license plates. The practice began in January 2015, when the former Galmudug traffic supervisor announced that drivers of vehicles with Puntland plates would be fined, arrested, and detained for 24 hours.

Puntland authorities continued to ban the transport of goods by road from the port of Berbera in Somaliland to towns in Puntland, including Garowe and Galkayo. The ban limited the ability of aid workers to deliver humanitarian supplies, such as food, livestock vaccination equipment, nutritional supplements, and education materials, to vulnerable populations in Puntland.

Foreign Travel: Few citizens had the means to obtain passports. In view of widespread passport fraud, many foreign governments did not recognize Somali passports as valid travel documents.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

Conflict, including fighting between clan militias in the Lower Shabelle, Galmudug, and Hiraan regions, and drought resulted in more than 1.1 million IDPs, primarily in the southern and central regions; nearly 400,000 IDPs were located in Mogadishu.

Forced deportations from Saudi Arabia continued during the year; approximately 85,000 Somalis have been forcibly repatriated from Saudi Arabia since 2013. Many returnees were unable to return to their places of origin and became IDPs.

Somalis and citizens from other countries fleeing the conflict in Yemen sought refuge in Somalia. While flows from Yemen have declined since August 2015, more than 33,500 individuals have fled to Somalia since March 2015. This included more than 28,800 Somali nationals, 4,500 Yemeni refugees, and approximately 300 migrants of other nationalities. UNHCR protected IDPs and provided them with temporary lodging and financial assistance. Since March 2015 the IOM has assisted more than 10,500 arrivals with onward transportation to their final destinations; the majority traveled to Mogadishu.

Government and regional authorities provided negligible protection and assistance to IDPs and sometimes actively participated in their displacement. Private persons with claims to land and government authorities, for example, regularly pursued the forceful eviction of IDPs in Mogadishu. Some IDPs and humanitarian agencies criticized local authorities for tacitly endorsing the forceful relocation of IDPs to insecure areas in Mogadishu. Somali authorities did not prevent the forced displacement of persons from shelters to camps on the outskirts of the city.

From January to August, authorities forcibly evicted approximately 91,000 persons, mostly IDPs; more than 78,000 were relocated to the south central part of the country, primarily Mogadishu. Insecure land tenure and limited land title verification contributed to the scale of forced evictions.

An April 2015 a Human Rights Watch report alleged that Somali national police, NISA forces, and city council police forcibly evicted an estimated 21,000 displaced persons in Mogadishu during March. The report claimed Somali authorities beat some of those evicted, destroyed their shelters, and left them without water, food, or other assistance. According to the report, authorities failed to provide adequate notification and compensation to the communities facing eviction and did not provide viable relocation or local integration options as required by international law. The report claimed that none of the evicted persons interviewed for the report had seen an official written eviction order, and most were unaware of the planned evictions.

Government forces and aligned militia looted and collaborated in the diversion of humanitarian aid from intended beneficiaries in Mogadishu. Most international aid organizations previously evacuated their staff or halted food distribution and other aid-related activities in al-Shabaab-controlled areas due to continued killings, extortion, threats, and harassment.

Government forces, allied militias, men wearing uniforms, and AMISOM troops committed sexual violence, including rape of IDPs in and around Mogadishu. Many of the victims were children. Women and children living in IDP settlements were particularly vulnerable to rape by armed men, including government soldiers and militia members. Gatekeepers in control of some IDP camps reportedly forced girls and women to provide sex in exchange for food and services within the camps.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The provisional federal constitution states that every person who has sought refuge in the country has the right not to be returned or taken to any country in which that person has a well-founded fear of persecution. There was no official system for providing such protection.

Somaliland continued to register asylum seekers with the assistance of UNHCR. The Somaliland Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement, and Reconstruction had only limited resources and registered fewer than 1,000 new arrivals and asylum seekers during the year. In some instances the Somaliland government refused to register Ethiopians and Eritreans as asylum seekers. Some Yemenis with Somali origins were classified as returnees instead of refugees, shifting the costs associated with resettlement from UNHCR to the government of Somaliland.

Employment: Employment opportunities were limited for refugees, Somali returnees, and other vulnerable populations. Refugee returnees from Kenya reported limited employment opportunities in areas of return in the southern and central sections of the country.

Access to Basic Services: The FGS continued to work with the international community to improve access to basic services, employment, and durable solutions for displaced populations.

On August 29, the IJA began blocking all voluntary refugee returns from Kenya, attributing the decision to a lack of available services and livelihoods for returnees.

Refugees and Somali returnees had limited access to basic services. Poor refugee reception services in Somaliland resulted in some refugees reportedly returning to Yemen despite continuing conflict.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future