Kenya gives UN 14-day deadline to close refugee camps

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NAIROBI, Kenya

Kenya on Wednesday issued the UN Refugee Agency a 14-day ultimatum to formulate a plan on the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, Kenya’s Interior Ministry tweeted, saying there is no room for further negotiations.

Kenya’s Star Newspaper quoted Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiang’I and other government officials as saying that the reason they had reached that decision was due to “terror threats planned from Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps”.

They also said Kenya and Somalia have no diplomatic relationship to continue hosting the refugees there.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday promptly responded to the Interior Ministry, warning of a catastrophe if the refugees are ejected from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps which have a population of 218,873 and 196,666 registered refugees respectively.

“The UNHCR has been informed by the Kenyan authorities of their intention to close Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps within a short timeframe. The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue.”

In a statement, the UNHCR urged the government of Kenya to ensure that any decisions it makes allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found and that those who continue to need protection are able to receive it.

The East African country revealed plans to shut the Dadaab refugee camp in November 2016 warning that the camp poses a security threat to the Kenyan people.

Kenya alleged that the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked Garissa University killing more than 140 students in 2015 had been facilitated by sympathizers from the Dadaab refugee camp, citing it as the main reason for the closure.

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