Kenya wants two refugee camps, Dadaab and Kakuma closed by June 30 next year, the government said Thursday.
This follows a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
The camps currently host 433,765 refugees.
“A joint team comprising officials from the Kenyan government and the (U.N. Refugee) agency will therefore be formed to finalize and implement a road map on the next steps towards a humane management of refugees in both camps,” a joint statement said.
The Interior CS Fred Matiang’i said that repatriation of refugees to countries of origin and socioeconomic integration of some of them through Work/Residence Permits is among the roadmap that the government will undertake to ensure that the mission is successful.
“We are serious about completing the repatriation program which we started in 2016, in full view of our international obligations and our domestic responsibility. We, therefore, reiterate our earlier position to close both Dadaab and Kakuma camps by 30th of June, 2022,” Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i said, according to the statement.
Kenya has formally communicated to @Refugees its decision to close Dadaab & Kakuma camps by 30 June 2022. Among the precursory activities in GoK's roadmap is repatriation of refugees to countries of origin & socioeconomic integration of some of them through Work/Residence Permits pic.twitter.com/KuUSrjkLkE
— Ministry of Interior (@InteriorKE) April 29, 2021
“I believe that the government and people of Kenya will continue to show their generous hospitality towards refugees as they have done for nearly three decades, while we carry on discussions on a strategy to find the most durable, appropriate and rights-based solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers residing in the refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma,” Grandi said.
On March 23, Kenya told UNHCR to announce a plan for the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugees’ camp within two weeks.
In response, the UNHCR Kenya in a statement called for dialogue and collaboration with the Kenyan authorities and partners to come up with joint renewed actions ‘that respect refugee rights and lead to sustainable solutions.
Amnesty International Kenya was concerned with the ultimatum noting that it had recreated the fear that the principle of non-refoulement may be violated for the refugees.
“Closure of Dadaab and Kakuma camps without an orderly approach that respects refugee rights invites a humanitarian disaster within the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director Irũngũ Houghton had said.
However, in the Thursday joint statement, Kenya and the UNHCR “agree that refugee camps are not a long-term solution to forced displacement” and are committed to working together to find alternative solutions in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.