The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has urged the Kenyan government to have a rethink on its decision to shut down two massive refugee camps in the country, including Dadaab and Kakuma camps.
The government, in a statement last Friday, said that the camps would close because of the security and financial burden it poses to the country. This is not the first time the government has made the announcement, but this time the government said it was closing its refugee department and will start sending back up to 600,000 refugees to their countries – of which are mostly from Somalia and South Sudan.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Interior says the Government had disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and was working on a mechanism for the closure of Kenya’s refugee camps – a move that could affect as many as 600,000 lives.
In response the agency wrote:
“It is with profound concern that UNHCR takes note of this announcement. For almost a quarter of a century Kenya has played a vital role in East Africa and the Horn of Africa in providing asylum to people forced to flee persecution and war. The safety of hundreds of thousands of Somalis, South Sudanese and others has hinged on Kenya’s generosity and its willingness to be a leading beacon in the region for international protection. Tragically, the situations in Somalia and South Sudan that cause people to flee are still unresolved today.”
The agency further urged the government to consider the danger of sending the refugees home and strike out its plan, pointing out what the country has so far gained from her generosity through the agency.
The statement adds:
“UNHCR has been, and will continue to be, in touch with the Kenyan Government to fully understand the implications of its statement. We recognize that Kenya has played an extraordinary role over many years as one of the world’s frontline major refugee hosting nations, and that inevitably this has had many consequences for the country and its population. It is for these reasons, that UNHCR has been a prominent advocate for robust international support for Kenya, including support for host communities and a careful listening to their concerns.”
Annoucing that it would displace more than 600,000 people, the government quoted “very heavy” economic, security and environmental issues as the reason for her decision.
Refugee camps due to close include Dadaab, the biggest refugee camp in the globe, housing over 300,000 people on the Kenya-Somalia border.
Karanja Kibicho, Kenya’s secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, referenced the influence of terror group Al-Shabaab as one of the risks of retaining the refugees.
The date of the closures of the refugee camp is yet unknown, but the Kenyan government has already dissolved the Department of Refugee Affairs, which worked with humanitarian organisations for the welfare of the refugees.
The closures mean Somali asylum seekers would be forced to go back to the situation that made them flee in the first place.