Kenya issues 14-day ultimatum to UNHCR on closure of Dadaab, Kakuma refugee camps

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i at his Nairobi office on Tuesday, March 23, 2021/ INTERIOR

Kenya has launched yet another attempt to shut down Daadab and Kakuma refugee camps.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on Tuesday issued UNHCR with a 14-day ultimatum to have a roadmap on “definite closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.

Speaking when he met with a UNHCR delegation to Kneya led by Fadhilaa Addala, Matiang’I said there was no room for further negotiations. In November 2013, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed an agreement allowing only “voluntary repatriation” of Dadaab refugees.

The recent move is linked to the maritime dispute and severing of relations between Kenya and Somalia.

Matiang’I noted that Nairobi has no diplomatic ties with Mogadishu, and thus is not obliged to continue hosting her refugees.

While Matiang’I said there would be no negotiations on the matter, Kenya has scheduled meeting with representatives of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan on Friday to regularise the repatriation of their nationals from the camps.

Refugees situation remains dire in sub-Saharan Africa

This is, however, not the first time Kenya is issuing this threat. In February 2019, the Interior ministry ordered the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp by June of that year.

Citing national security concerns, the government wrote to UNHCR on February 12 about plans to close the camp within six months and asking the agency “to expedite relocation of the refugees and asylum-seekers residing therein”.

This drew protests from human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch,

In 2016, again, Kenyan authorities announced plans to shut Dadaab camp, citing concerns that Somalia-based al Shabaab militants were using it as a base to plan attacks in Kenya. The High Court blocked the move in 2017, saying it was unconstitutional and violated Kenya’s international obligations.

Brendon Cannon, Assistant Professor of International Security, Institute of International and Civil Security (IICS) at Khalifa University writes that Kenya may never close Dadaab, but it had good reasons for wishing to do so.

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