Jun 25, 2014

A Congolese couple relocated to Dadaab camps in May 2014 asks to be reunited with their children in Nairobi

Source:Tamuka New- Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12h20
Author: UNHCR's Duke Mwancha on Tamuka News www.tamuka.org
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of Kosprins Lyrical Wax

DADAAB, Kenya, June 2014 – Philemon Bintu Rudaga, a Congolese refugee is worried about his four children, whom he was separated from when relocated by the authorities from Nairobi to Dadaab refugee camp on 8 May. Philemon, his wife and their 18 year old daughter are now staying at a transit center in the Dagahaley camp of Dadaab.

Philemon is one of approximately 160 Congolese refugees who were arrested on 4 May by the police in an Usalama Watch swoop while worshiping at the Antioch Church in Kasarani, Nairobi. Four days later, Philemon and some 200 other refugees were relocated to the Dadaab camp. Since that day, he has been longing for an opportunity to reunite with his children left behind in Nairobi. He says they are being taken care of by good Kenyan neighbors and are attending school as usual. Nonetheless, he knows his children are devastated, and he is afraid that the events and separation for 6 weeks will have a lasting impact on them.

It is not the first time that Philemon has been separated from his family. In 2003, he fled from conflict in his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and sought refuge in Kenya. His wife and children were only able to join him in 2010 in Nairobi, where they found tranquility until the arrest at church and forced relocation to Dadaab.
Refugees, mainly Congolese relocated to Dadaab during Kenya's Usalama Watch in Nairobi in May 2014 pray together at a transit center in Dagahaley camp where Philemon Bintu is their pastor. UNHCR. D. Mwancha

“My wife and I with our first born child are now encamped here in Dadaab; how am I supposed to think of myself as a father when my other four children, who are all below 18 years, are not here with us,” wonders Philemon.

Philemon’s face displays a lot grief during the interview. His daughter seated next to him is overwhelmed emotionally when her father narrates the ordeal. In Nairobi, she was attending a private high school, and had started her 10th grade earlier this year. She says she has never been out of school for a whole month before.  “I am missing school so much. I am sure my classmates have covered a lot already. If I continue staying here for another week, this semester will go to waste,” she says.

Philemon’s wife worked with the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) in Nairobi until she was arrested. She asks the government of Kenya to forgive her community, even though they have not committed any crime. “It’s not fair that we are made to stay here in the camp for over a month without seeing our children. Every day, I talk to my four children in Nairobi over the phone but I hardly have anything to tell them because I still don’t know when I am likely to see them,” she explains.

As a pastor, Philemon spends most of his time comforting over 170 fellow Congolese facing the same predicament as him.  He is also their spokesman.

On 23 March, Philemon had been accepted for resettlement to the USA and was supposed to do a medical checkup and finalize the process in May. He now fears that he might have lost this opportunity to find a durable solution, as he has not been told if the medicals have been rescheduled.

Philemon expresses “The government of Kenya, which had earlier allowed us to live and work in Nairobi has all of a sudden brandished us as criminals. I think it will be hard to live in Nairobi again because our Kenyan neighbors will obviously not look at us in the same way as before.” He asks UNHCR to relocate them to another country, if possible.

Philemon ends by explaining that he has organized with his Kenyan neighbors, to ensure his four children in Nairobi do not miss school.  “Yesterday, their teacher called me and asked that I should clear their outstanding school fees. He obviously didn’t know that my wife and I are encamped here in Dadaab.”
Story documented by Duke Mwancha, UNHCR Dadaab, for the ‘1Family torn apart is too many’ campaign

Call to action:   Show your solidarity with families torn apart and share this and your refugee story: http://stories.unhcr.org   

A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee his or her home country due to persecution, conflict or other forms of insecurity, and who is not able to return for the same reasons.

At the end of March 2014, the Government of Kenya issued a Directive requiring all urban refugees in Kenya to relocate to the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps. Early April, the security operation Usalama Watch was launched in response to the emerging security challenges facing Kenya. Since then, thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers of different nationalities have been arbitrarily arrested in widespread swoops in Nairobi and other urban centres, and detained and relocated by the Kenyan authorities to the refugee camps. Also, around 355 persons, including at least 3 refugees, have been deported to Mogadishu. Most of the affected refugees have lived for many years in urban centres, where they have jobs or businesses, the children attend school and those with medical needs receive treatment. In the process of arrests, detention, relocations and deportations, around 300 children so far, including babies as young as 2 months, have been separated from their mothers and fathers. Several hundred more family members have been torn apart from their spouses or other close relatives. This campaign – ‘1Family torn apart is too many’ – is based on the global 2014 World Refugee Day theme, and tells the story of children, women and men affected by the operation, and calls to action to help refugee families stay united and continue living in peace and dignity. 

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