UNHCR responds to Matiang’i ultimatum on closure of refugee camps
The UN refugee agency has urged the Kenyan Government to ensure that any decisions on the Daadab and Kakuma camps allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found.
Responding to the directive from the Interior CS Fred Matiang’i that was issued on Wednesday, the agency called for consideration of those who live in the camps for need of protection.
“The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue,” the statement reads.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed its gratitude to Kenyans for ‘generously hosting refugees and asylum-seekers for several decades’ saying it recognises the impact this has had.
“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,” the statement adds.
On Wednesday, Dr. Matiang’i issued a 14-day ultimatum to the refugee agency on closure of the two camps stating that there is no room for further negotiations.
This is the second attempt by the Kenyan Government to have the camps closed and refugees repatriated.
The population of refugees in Daadab and Kakuma camps is estimated to be 217,000 and 190,000 respectively.
When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya, the government banned movement in and out of two huge refugee camps as part of containment measures.
This was aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus among vulnerable communities.
The directive followed warnings from health experts and humanitarian groups that an outbreak of COVID-19 in densely populated refugee camps would be catastrophic.
Dadaab was established by the United Nations in 1991, and has since mushroomed, with more refugees streaming in, uprooted by drought and famine as well as on-going insecurity.
Additional report from Reuters and Aljazeera