Kenya: High Court temporarily stops Gov’t from closing Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps

The sprawling Dadaab camp in Kenya, the world’s largest refugee complex. [Image:Courtesy]
NAIROBI, Kenya — The high court has temporarily blocked the Kenyan government from closing the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps that host over 383, 871 people.

On March 24, the Interior Minister CS Fred Matiang’i issued a 14-day ultimatum to the UNHCR to “have a road map on definite closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps,” saying the camps have been used by terrorists to plan attacks. The Ministry appended that there was no room for further negotiations on the matter.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) responded on the matter, expressing appreciation to the Kenyan government.

UNHCR noted that it “is concerned about the impact the decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” and would continue to dialogue with the Kenyan authorities.

The agency also “urged the Government of Kenya to ensure that any decisions allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found and that those who continue to need protection are able to receive it.”

“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.

Former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira moved to court over the government’s directive to close the camps, stating that it violates international law and treaties on the protection of refugee rights and is therefore null and void.

The court stayed the closure for 30 days, according to a directive copy circulated by local media. The matter will be mentioned on April 13, 2021.

As of December 31, 2020, Dadaab and Kakuma camps hosted 223,420 and 160,451 refugees respectively with the majority from Somalia, according to the UNHCR Kenya statistics package.

Kenya revealed plans to shut the Dadaab camp in November 2016. The East African country has continually alleged that sympathizers from the camp have been facilitating al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab terrorists.