Kenya to Expel Somali Refugees From World’s Largest Camp
The Kenyan government has announced plans to close the world largest refugee camp and expel more than 300,000 Somalis from the country.
Kenya says it plans to shut down Dadaab camp over the next year in a bid to protect the nation’s security interests. Kenya has been the victim of large-scale attacks carried out by Somali-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab in recent years and the camp has been highlighted as a security threat.
Camp a security threat
The Kenyan government feels it has been left with no option but to draft plans for the camp’s closure, as the situation in Somalia becomes increasingly volatile. Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Nkaissery says the camp has been used by Al-Shabaab to smuggle weapons into Kenya.
“For reasons of pressing national security that speak to the safety of Kenyans in a context of terrorist and criminal activities, the government of the Republic of Kenya has commenced the exercise of closing Dadaab refugee complex,” he said at a news conference in Nairobi.
Al-Shabaab was responsible for the Westgate mall attack, which killed almost 70 in 2013, and the Garissa University attack, which killed nearly 150 students in 2015.
Rights groups condemn plans
Aid and rights groups have condemned the proposal from Kenya to close Dadaab camp, claiming the move would be illegal, impractical and dangerous. Kenya says the expelled refugees will be repatriated to their country of origin or be resettled in another country.
However, rights groups say both international and Kenyan law prohibit the forced return of refugees to places where they might face human rights violations. The Obama administration has also urged Kenya to drop the plans, insisting it will continue to work with the country to find solutions for refugees.
This isn’t the first time Kenya has threatened to close refugee camps, although the government appears more serious this time around. Some analysts say Kenya will back down if it is offered more international support.
By DFID – UK Department for International Development – Refugee shelters in the Dadaab camp, northern Kenya, July 2011, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26240609