Kenya Orders Closure of Two Refugee Camps, Gives UNHCR Deadline for Instructions

March 25, 2021

FILE – A Turkana woman washes her face at a water point within Kalobeyei Settlement outside the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana county, northwest of Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 1, 2018.


Kenya’s Interior Ministry announced plans Wednesday to close two camps that accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict and hardships in neighboring countries, especially Somalia.

The East African country demanded that the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, present a “road map” in two weeks that details how the evacuation of the refugees can proceed.

UNHCR said it would continue the dialogue and had asked Kenya to guarantee protection for the refugees.

In a statement, the agency said, “The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Fred Matiang’i, the interior minister who issued the ultimatum, said there was “no room for further negotiations,” according to the ministry on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Kenyan authorities told the UNCHR that refugees would be sent to the border with Somalia if the camps were not closed, the Interior Ministry confirmed to Reuters.

The camps, Dadaab and Kakuma, are in the northern part of the country and are home to more than 410,000 people from Somalia and South Sudan.

Plans to shut the camps began in 2016 when Kenyan authorities cited national security concerns, but a high court blocked the move, calling it unconstitutional.

The concerns arose from intelligence that pointed to elements within the camps who were involved in attacks on Kenya in 2013 and 2015.

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