Tanzania: UNHCR asks Kenya to reconsider decision on closing Daadab refugee camps

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) -  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tuesday urged the authorities in Kenya to give further consideration to their decision to close Dadaab refugee camps within three months and send 350,000 Somali refugees living there back to their home country.

In a statement, delivered at a press briefing in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Karin de Gruijl said the UN refugee agency “stands ready to work even more closely with the Government of Kenya to strengthen law enforcement at Dadaab and support other measures to protect refugees and Kenyans alike against possible intrusion by armed actors from across the border.”

The Kenyan government last weekend announced that the refugees camps at Daadab should be closed following a horrific attack at Garissa University in the northeastern region bordering war-ravaged Somalia earlier this month.

“UNHCR too has been shocked and appalled by the Garissa attack. High Commissioner [Antonio] Guterres and his staff stand in solidarity with the people of Kenya. We reiterate our condolences to the families of all the victims,” said the agency’s spokesperson.

The official noted that Kenya has been generously hosting and protecting refugees from violence and persecution in neighbouring Somalia for more than two decades.

“UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya and we understand well the current regional security situation and the seriousness of the threats Kenya is facing,” De Gruijl  said. “We also recognize the obligation of the Government to ensure the security of its citizens and other people living in Kenya, including refugees.”

According to the same official, UNHCR was nevertheless concerned that abruptly closing the Dadaab camps and forcing refugees back to Somalia would have extreme humanitarian and practical consequences, and would be a breach of Kenya’s international obligations.

In December 2014, a pilot scheme was launched to support people who seek to voluntarily repatriate to one of three relatively safe areas of Somalia, namely Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo.

“We are ready to work with the governments of Kenya and Somalia to step up this programme where there are opportunities for voluntary repatriation.

“Nonetheless, for now UNHCR considers that large-scale returns are still not possible in many parts of the country, in particular to south central Somalia,” De Gruijl added, reiterating UNHCR’s commitment to support Kenya in its protection of Somali refugees going forward
-0- PANA AR/VAO 14April2015

14 april 2015 15:42:52

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