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  • on 11.05.2016
  • at 12:06 PM
  • by Staff

Kenyan Refugee Camp Closures will have Disastrous Consequences 0

United Nations  – The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated. At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns.

Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.-

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

International human rights groups have lambasted the move.

“In a single breath, the Kenyan government recognizes that the Somalis it has been hosting for nearly 25 years are still refugees, but then states it’s finished with them,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Refugee Rights Program Director Bill Frelick.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki calledthe decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Aelbrecht stated that in one Dadaab camp alone where MSF works, approximately 330,000 Somalis will be affected and forced to return to a war-torn country with little access to vital humanitarian assistance. Somalia is also facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displacedand killed millions, worsened access to food and water, and destroyed schools and hospitals.

Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” Frelick echoed these sentiments, stating that though the threat of Al-Shabab is real, Kenya still has to “abide by international refugee law.” HRW also noted that there is no evidence linking Somali refugees to any terrorist attacks in Kenya.

This is not the first time that Kenya has made such calls.

According to Refugees International, in 2012 and 2014, the government ordered all urban refugees to report to refugee camps. Refugees were subsequently bribed, harassed, physically assaulted and arrested by police.

The most recent announcement may therefore increase levels of extortion and abuse by security forces, said Refugees International Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell.

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by Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Photo Credits: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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