A section of residents of Kakuma and the refugee community have appealed to the government to reconsider its planned closure of the Kakuma refugee camp.
They termed as ill-informed an order by the Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Dr. Fred Matiangi to close the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps.
A Burundian refugee, Emmanuel Kalibise said they have intermarried with the host community and that Kenya is the place they know as their home since childhood and they have no other place to go.
“We know Kenya as our home. I was born here and schooled here as well. We are not going anywhere. My parents are both Kenyans and refugees. I appeal to the government to pardon us,” Kabilise said.
A resident Mark Ekadeli said the closure of the camp will affect the livelihoods of the residents and the locals who have lived interdependently in various economic aspects.
“We appeal to the government to halt the decision to close the camp. If the refugees exit this region our lives will be drastically affected. Nobody should separate us,” Ekadeli said.
Ekadeli said most of the residents enjoy substantive free education and health services from the refugee community that is provided by the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNCHR).
“We ask the government to reconsider its decision. We fear that most of our residents who work in UN camps will lose their jobs. In fact, we get free medical services with quality drugs from the refugee hospital yet our own public hospitals don’t have drugs,” Ekadeli added.
Refugees International Senior Advocate for Women and Girls Devon Cone said it is unacceptable for Kenya to order the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma camps. Kenya also gave UNHCR two weeks to figure out how to responsibly shut down two of the world’s largest refugee camps.
“The Kenyan government has threatened to forcibly return refugees to unsafe countries if UNHCR fails to meet its demands. These orders are reckless and cruel,” Ms Cone added.
“Any move to abruptly close the camps could uproot almost half a million people and send them to countries that are clearly unsafe, most notably Somalia. Many of these refugees were born in the camps and know no other home. Forcing them to leave Kenya in this manner would be a clear violation of international law,” she went on.
She said Kenya has provided refuge to millions fleeing violence in neighboring countries for decades adding that the international community can and must do more to support Kenya to find sustainable solutions for these refugees. “However, giving UNHCR a two-week ultimatum to close the camps is a recipe for chaos and disaster,’’ she said.
Communities hosting refugees in the country have reportedly benefited from government projects under the Sh10 billion Kenya Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project in Wajir, Garissa and Turkana counties.