Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i Thursday held a meeting with United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives on Kenya’s plans to shut down Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps.
According to the CS, the virtual meeting with 25 officials centred around consideration of refugee rights in the government’s move that if executed will affect about 500,000 people accommodated in the two camps.
Foreign CS Raychell Omamo also attended the meeting.
The talks came a day after Matiang’i gave the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 14 days to develop a road map on definite closure of the two camps, ruling out further negotiations.
UNHCR is a UN agency mandated to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
“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,” Matiang’i said in a letter to UNHCR representative to Kenya Fadhilaa Addala.
In the letter, the Kenyan authorities cited terror threats as the main reason for the closure directive.
The government also expressed concerns over neglect by other countries in managing the high number of refugees accommodated in the country.
In its response yesterday, UNHCR called for consideration of those who live in the camps saying they need protection.
“The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ” said UNHCR.
The agency said it will continue engaging Kenyan authorities on the issue with an aim of finding an amicable and long-lasting solution.
It further expressed its gratitude to Kenyan 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 agency added.
The Dadaab refugee complex had a population of 218,873 registered refugees and asylum seekers as at the end of July 2020.
The complex consists of three camps, Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagadera. The first two are located in Lagdera (Dadaab) district while Hagadera is located in the neighbouring Fafi district.
On the other hand, Kakuma refugee camp is located in the outskirts of Kakuma town, which is the headquarters for Turkana West District of Turkana County.
Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement had a population of 196,666 registered refugees and asylum-seekers at the end of July 2020.