The government of Kenya is reported to have ordered the closure of Dadaab Refugee Camp by mid-this year.
According to a leaked internal United Nations document obtained by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the government ordered the closure citing “national security concerns.”
The document further notes that the Uhuru Kenyatta-led government drafted a letter to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on February 12.
At the time, the government divulged its intentions to close the refugee camp within six months, putting the closure approximately in June-July.
The letter addressed to UNHCR also called on the international agency to “expedite the relocation of the refugees and asylum-seekers residing therein.”
Confirming the closure plan, UNHCR emailed Thomson Reuters Foundation stating, “UNHCR is aware of the renewed call by the Government of Kenya to close Dadaab and is working with the government to continue to implement long-term and sustainable solutions for over 210,000 refugees living in the camp.
“These include voluntary returns, a third country solution such as resettlement, sponsorships, family reunifications, and labor migration, as well as relocations in Kenya, including at Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei Settlement,” the agency added.
Following the release of the document, Kenya’s Interior Ministry is yet to respond to the reports.
However, in 2016, the government had declared its intentions to close down the camp, citing concerns that al Shabaab was using it as a base to plan terrorist acts in Kenya.
The High Court then blocked the move in 2017, asserting that it was unconstitutional and was an act of Kenya violating its international obligations.
The government’s move has since been criticized by Human Rights groups who claim that it is threatening the rights and safety of most of the Somali nationals who are in the camp as they may be forced to go back to their country.