By Margaret Kalekye
The Kenyan government has announced it will close down Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
The Principal Secretary for Interior says the country continues to shoulder very heavy economic, security and environmental burden as a result of hosting over 600,000 refugees for almost a quarter of the century.
“The Government of the Republic of Kenya, having taken into consideration its national security interests, has decided that hosting of refugees has to come to an end. The Government is working on a mechanism for closure of the two refugee camps within the shortest time possible” read the statement from Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government
Since Kenya’s armed forces invaded Somalia in 2011 in pursuit of the terrorist organisation al-Shabaab, the country has endured more than 100 terror attacks.
Al-Shabaab’s deadliest attack was last year when the militants stormed Garissa University and massacred 148 students.
The government has also disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) as the first step to the closure of refugee camps.
“Due to the immense security challenges such as threat of Al Shabaab and other related terror groups that hosting of refugees has continued to pose to Kenya and due to the slow nature of the repatriation” said Kibicho.
The PS said continued efforts to address the issue of repatriation of refugees and eventual closure of the camps at regional and international have delayed inspite of a Tripartite Agreement signed between the Government of Kenya, Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
“This has been a subject of discussion in many forums including the UN, the African Union (AU) and the region.
“The Government of Kenya has been forced by circumstances to reconsider the whole issue of hosting refugees and the process of repatriation”, he stated.
Kenya is now urging the international community to support the initiative so that the process of closing the camps can be expedited.
“The Government of Kenya is therefore calling upon the international community to support this initiative so that process of closing the camps is expedited while at the same minimizing pain and suffering of the refugees”.
Last year, the government backtracked on plans to close down Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, after intense pressure from the international community.
The government is seeking international assistance noting that the action to close the camps will definitely spark humanitarian consequences.
‘The Government of Kenya acknowledges that this decision will have adverse effects on the lives of refugees and therefore the international community must collectively take responsibility on humanitarian needs that will arise out of this action” said the PS.