Kenya made a final and clear decision to close down its refugee camps which holds more than 600,000 people. Dadaab refugee camp, world’s largest camp, holds at least 328,000 people is one of the many camps planned for closure. Most of the refugees are from Somalia and some have lived there for a long time and some are even born in the camp. Kenyan government said the shutdown was due to “very heavy” economic, security and environmental burdens.
Karanja Kibicho, senior Interior Ministry official, said “Kenya, having take into consideration its national security interest, has decided that hosting of refugees has to come to an end.” The terror group, al-Shabaab, is one the primary problems for the camps to be shut down. It is said that al-Shabaab planned three large-scale attacks from within Dadaab.
In a statement by the government, “As a country we have been glad to help our neighbors and all those in need sometimes at the expense of our security” and added “But there comes a time when we must think primarily about the security of our people. Ladies and gentlemen, that time is now.”
United Nations has urged Kenya to reevaluate its decision to close Dadaab camp. John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, stated that the decision is very concerning and urged Kenya to continue its “leadership role in protecting and sheltering victims of violence and trauma, consistent with its international obligations.” Several non-governmental organizations have voiced out against the decision.
Kenya has revealed that it would shut the camps in the previous years but failed to do so because of the international pressure. However, the Interior Ministry has announced the disbandment of the Department of Refugee Affairs, which oversees the registration and welfare of the refugees as the first step.
There is no set deadline but the government wants to do so “in the shortest time possible.”