Kenya has formally communicated to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) its decision to close Dadaab and Kakuma camps by 30 June 2022.
The government at the same time has said among the precursory activities in the roadmap is repatriation of refugees to countries of origin and socioeconomic integration of some of them through Work/Residence Permits.
A few days prior to the communication, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi had said Kenya would not shut down the two camps but would seek solutions.
“The Government of Kenya is not closing down those camps but wants to have a solution, to see what the way forward is,” Grandi said.
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Grandi is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi to assess the problems refugees are currently facing.
On April 8, Kenya’s high court suspended the government’s move to shut down the two camps that hold hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn neighboring countries.
Kenya’s interior ministry had given the U.N. refugee agency 14 days to come up with a plan for closing the camps, saying that “there is no room for further negotiations.”
The Interior CS at the time said the demand was non-negotiable noting the camps pose a threat to the country, citing intelligence indicating planned terrorist attacks from the two camping grounds.
In its statement, the UN Refugee Agency acknowledged concerns by Kenyan authorities and expressed gratitude “to the people and Government of Kenya for generously hosting refugees and asylum-seekers for several decades and recognize the impact this generosity has had.”
UNHCR however said it 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 ultimatum to close the two world’s largest refugee camps was at the time received with mixed feelings both locally and internationally.
The Dadaab camp in Kenya’s east holds more than 200,000 refugees mainly from Somalia, which has not known peace since the 1991 ouster of long-time dictator Siad Barre.
The Kakuma camp in northern Kenya hosts nearly 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority from South Sudan’s civil war.