Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i has issued the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR with a 14-day ultimatum to develop a road map towards the definite closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
The two are the world’s largest refugee camps located in Kenya.
The Interior CS says this demand is non-negotiable noting that the two camps pose a threat to the country. He cited intelligence indicating planned terrorist attacks from the two camping grounds.
Matiang’i said that the past Mpeketoni, Lamu, Garissa, and Westgate attacks were planned and executed from the said refugee camps.
In addition to terror threats in the country and the draining of resources, Matiang’i also noted that the government’s effort to have war-torn areas where Al-Shabaab operates in Somalia to be labeled as terrorist organizations have been hindered continuously.
Matiang’i further noted that the smuggling of contraband from Somalia has been the main source of funding terrorism activities despite the governments’ effort to cab illegal trading within the borders.
The ultimatum was delivered by Matiang’i alongside his Chief Administrative Secretary Hussein Dhado and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho to the UNHCR representative to Kenya Fadhilaa Addala in a letter bearing the government’s final decision on the matter.
“There is no room for negotiation. We must strike a balance between Kenya’s international obligation and her domestic duties. We do have a domestic responsibility to protect Kenya,” the letter read in parts.
In response, UNHCR has said it is concerned about the impact Kenya’s decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, adding that they will continue with dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue.
UNHCR stands ready to support the Government of Kenya in continuing and further strengthening the work that is ongoing to find solutions that are orderly, sustainable, and respect refugee rights,” said UNHCR.
With a population of more than 274,000, the majority of refugees at Dadaab and Kakuma are from Somalia. The rest of the refugees are comprised of people from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, and other neighboring countries