The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees -UNHCR has offered a raft of proposals to the Kenyan government aimed at finding a lasting solution for about 430,000 refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
The Kenyan government through the Ministry of Interior gave UNHCR a 14 day ultimatum to have a road map on definite closure of the two refugee camps located in Kenya.
UNHCR in its proposal recommends a dignified voluntary repatriation and resettlement to third countries of refugees who are not able to return home and face protection risks.
In a brief statement posted on social media, the interior ministry said there was no room for further negotiations.
Two days after the lapse of that ultimatum, UNHCR has provided what it terms as a ‘sustainable and rights-based solutions for refugees residing in camps’.
UNHCR’s plan, in support of the Government of Kenya, includes:
1.Enhanced voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity, while taking into account the movement restrictions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
2.Provision of alternative-stay arrangements to refugees from the East African Community (EAC). This would represent a major opportunity for refugees to become self-reliant and contribute to the local economy.
3.Acceleration of the issuing of national ID cards to over 11,000 Kenyans who have previously been identified as registered in the refugee database, and continuation of the vetting process for others in similar circumstances.
4.Resettlement to third countries for a small number of refugees who are not able to return home and face protection risks.
UNHCR says it recognises the tremendous generosity that the people and Government of Kenya have demonstrated towards refugees for many decades and the need to resolve situations of longstanding displacement.
“We have heard the concerns expressed by the Government of Kenya and hope that these measures will be a significant step forward in accelerating sustainable solutions for all those concerned,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya.
UNHCR is also calling for more dialogue on the matter to ensure that the refugee rights are protected.
“We believe that through joint renewed actions we can put in place measures that respect refugee rights and lead to sustainable solutions. We look forward to continuing our dialogue and collaboration with the Kenyan authorities and partners on this important matter”, said the UNHCR official.
Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma Refugee Camps have been home to about 430,000 refugees mainly from Somalia and other countries like South Sudan and Ethiopia fleeing from violence, war, hunger, extreme poverty and at times consequences of natural disasters.
After decades of this humanitarian effort, the government of Kenya first announced its intention to shut the Dadaab camp back in 2016 citing national security concerns.
And on March 24th 2021, the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i gave the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees a 14-day-ultimatum to have a road map on the definite closure of both Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
Justice Antony Mrima issued the temporary order, which will run for 30 days, after former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira filed a legal challenge seeking to block closure of the two camps.
In his petition, Gichira, had argued that the directive to close the two camps violates Kenya’s constitution as well as international laws and treaties regarding protection of refugee rights.