13 May 2016

On Friday 6 May 2016 the Ministry of Interior of Kenya announced its plans to close all refugee camps on its territory and end refugee protection. In its declaration the reasons for the closure were described as “very heavy economic, security and environmental issues”. The camps in the Dadaab region, hosting around 350,000 refugees, and Kakuma, hosting over 190,000 refugees, would close due to this decision “within the shortest time possible”. UNHCR and civil society organisations have expressed their concerns about this decision and its disastrous consequences and called on Kenya not to ignore its obligations under international law.

With a refugee population of over 600,000 people, Kenya has played an important and generous role in East Africa and the Horn of Africa in the past. Conflicts in South-Sudan and Somalia have resulted in large displaced populations that have moved to Kenya. With the closure of the camps, this would mean these people become displaced once more.

While acknowledging and welcoming the responsibility that Kenya has borne in the past decades, a group of NGOs has asked the Government of Kenya to uphold the protection and rights of refugees who are prone to human rights violations. The NGOs predict a humanitarian disaster in the case of an abrupt closure. They also call upon the international community to expand its resettlement quotas for refugees from the Horn of Africa and demand that Kenya offers durable solutions. Similar demands have also been voiced by UNHCR and Amnesty International, showing widespread opposition to this measure.

The Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs has already been dismantled as a first step in the process. In a press statement from 11 May, the Ministry of Interior indicated that a timetable for the dismantling of the camps is expected in June 2016.

For further information:

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 May 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.