Kenya: Refugee camp shutdown to drag beyond Kenya imposed deadline

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The closure of a refugee camp housing more than 300,000 Somali refugees will drag beyond the November deadline imposed by the Kenya government.

Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed said on Saturday that an agreement reached jointly with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Somali government had projected the repatriation of 150,000 refugees back to Somalia by the end of 2016, almost half of the camp's population.

Kenyan government officials ordered the closure of the Dadaab Refugee Camp in May, citing national security concerns, after a series of terrorist attacks in Nairobi and parts of Kenya’s north eastern region.

A government task force set up to work out the modalities of closing the camp recommended the series of camps forming the Dadaab Refugee Complex to be closed by November 2016.

“There is acceptance by the international community that the camp is going to close. We are holding a Tripartite meeting with the UNHCR and Somalia government to propose the way forward,” Mohammed said before a weekend meeting on the roadmap towards the closure of the Dadaab Refugee Camp.

US President Barack Obama held telephone talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday to discuss the pending closure of the Dadaab camp.

“President Kenyatta reiterated Kenya’s stand that the decision that the refugees must return to Somalia was already taken and Kenya was not about to go back on it,” said a statement issued by State House.

President Kenyatta defended the pending closure of the camp. He told President Obama Kenya was not running away from its international obligations. He also insisted the government would ensure the closure of the camp was done in a humane manner.

During Saturday’s talks in Nairobi, attended by UN Refugee Commissioner Filipe Grandi and Somali foreign minister Abdusalam Omer, the Kenyan minister again called for a census on the refugees.

“We are going to carry out a verification exercise to know exactly who is here and how many refugees there are at the camp,” Mohamed said after a joint meeting.

The ministers agreed to push through with the repatriation of the refugees aiming to reach at least 150,000 people by year end as officials work towards obtaining funds to foot the cost of repatriation.

Kenyan government estimates at least 20 billion shillings (US$200 million) is required to meet the cost of repatriation to Somalia.

“We are going to do it in a humane manner,” Mohamed said.

Meanwhile, the Somali government and the UNHCR insist the closure of the camp should not be pegged on any timelines but would depend on the availability of the resources to carry out the repatriation.

“It is a condition-based event. It should be based on the realistic observations. The process has to be voluntary,” Abdusalam said.
-0- PANA AO/MA 26June2016

26 june 2016 12:15:32

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