On Friday, Kenya announced that it plans to close refugee camps and will stop automatically granting refugee status to any asylum seeker. The UNHCR has warned Kenya against this act as it’s liable to have a devastating effect.
Kenya is home to about 550,000 refugees who are mostly located in the north. The Dadaab camp in the north-east shelters refugees from Somalia while the Kakuma camp in the north west accommodates asylum seekers fleeing the civil war in neighboring South Sudan.
The Kenyan government cited security reasons for the plan to close the Kakuma and Dadaab camps. The statement had practically said that it could no longer host the refugees and the camps will be closed in the shortest time possible. The statement also added that the department of refugee affairs is being dissolved.
“The safety of hundreds of thousands of Somalis, South Sudanese and others has (long) hinged on Kenya’s generosity and its willingness to be a leading beacon in the region for international protection,” UNHCR said in a statement.
“Tragically, the situations in Somalia and South Sudan that cause people to flee are still unresolved today.”
Al-Shabab Disguised As Refugees?
A spokesman for the Kenyan interior ministry said the plan to close the the Kenyan refugee camps was primarily aimed at Somalis.
The government believes that the Al-Shabaab militants who are based in Somali usually disguise themselves as asylum seekers, thereby hiding in those camps before attacking. They are also believed to recruit refugees into their sect.
Al-shabaab stormed Westgate mall in 2013 and Garissa University College in 2015 were they killed at least 67 and 148 people respectively with over 200 injured. This acts were like salt on sore wound, which prompted Kenyan officials to threaten the closure of the refugee camps, but later gave into international pressure not to close the camps.
The UNHCR has however urged Kenya not to close these camps as they risk the worsening of the current global refugee crisis.
“In today’s global context of some 60 million people forcibly displaced, it is more important than ever that international asylum obligations prevail and are properly supported,
“In light of this, and because of the potentially devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people that premature ending of refugee hosting would have, UNHCR is calling on the government of Kenya to reconsider its decision,” the statement said.
Amnesty International also criticized Kenya’s decision, calling it “reckless”, with the ability to “put lives at risk”.
The Kenyan Ministry of Interior however remains unfazed in the face of International pressure,stating that
“Kenya has stood on the front-lines of challenging terrorism, upholding humanitarianism, and pursuing global peace and security. We, however, have no grounds to keep compromising the security of our citizens in the face of foot-dragging, double standards and lack of commitment in the rapid resettlement of Somali refugees in their homeland,” Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said.
The Kenyan government is now waiting for the peaceful shutdown of the camps by the UNHCR.
See what Kenyans are saying on the closure of the refugee camps with the