The Kenyan government has given the United Nation three months to relocate refugees from its North Eastern border. The East African country which is home to over 550,000 refugees, is looking to shut down its Dadaab camp which has more than 400,000 displaced people mainly Somalis.
This directive comes after the attack at a Kenyan university that left at least 147 people dead most of them students. The massacre is the second worst attack on Kenyan soil after the 1998 US embassy bombing in the capital city, Nairobi that left more than 200 people dead.
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“We have had talks with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and we have told them they should move the camp in Dadaab from Kenya in the next three months to Somalia,” Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto said in Swahili to a gathering on Saturday.
This is not the first time government officials are seeking to shut down the refugee camp claiming it is a ‘breeding ground’ for terrorists. Leaders from the North Eastern region where the camp is situated have also called on the government to shut down or relocate the refugee camp.
“We already have a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Somalia and Kenya on the repatriation of the refugees in the Dadaab camp so that they [refugees] can go home and we relocate the camp to the other side of the border,” Ruto said.
“We are not saying anything new. All we are saying is that we are reducing the time [for the repatriation] so these people [refugees] can go home.”
Nonetheless, this move by the government has been met with criticism from various quarters.
“The move by Government is not in line with the law. Refugee protection is civilian and humanitarian in character. Refugees have to go through a rigorous process to verify that they are indeed civilians and not militia. Therefore, mixing them up with terrorism without tangible proof is most unfortunate,” the Refugee Consortium of Kenya told CNBCafrica.com.
During a spate of terror attacks in 2013 and 2014, the government directed all immigrants on its soil to two designated camps – Dadaab and Kakuma. The two camps are known for being secluded and overrun with refugees.
According to UNHCR, Kenya is the fifth stop in the world for asylum seekers after Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon. The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.