UN urges Kenya to reconsider decision to close Dadaab refugee camp

The massive Dadaab refugee camp complex in Kenya, seen from the air. Photo: Brendan Bannon/UNCHR



A UN Security Council delegation on Friday urged Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to reconsider the decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, saying the move could jeopardize regional security.

Addressing journalists in the Kenyan capital Nairobi after a meeting with President Kenyatta, head of the delegation, Abdellatif Aboulatta who is the Egyptian Permanent Representative to the UN, urged Kenya to abide by global instruments on respect for people displaced by conflicts.

“Our position is that refugee crisis is a shared burden and closure of Dadaab refugee camp may not be the best decision,” said Aboulatta.

The Kenyan government said ealiear this month it would close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp that hosts nearly 330,000 Somali refugees in northeast Kenya, by May next year, citing a “very heavy economic, security and environmental burden”.

It said it had set aside 10 million U.S. dollars for the repatriation of all Somali refugees in Dadaab.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has called on Kenya not to close the camp.

During the meeting with Kenyatta, the delegation said Kenya has a moral and legal obligation to shelter Somali refugees until Somalia stabilizes fully.

Aboulatta said the international community shared Kenya’s security concern over the refugee camp, adding that it will assist Kenya in combating terrorism.

Kenya claims Al-Shabaab, which has staged a string of deadly attacks in Kenya, has hideouts in Dadaab.

It asked UNHCR to close Dadaab last April, days after Al-Shabaab gunmen’s massacre of 148 people at Kenya’s Garissa University.

A statement from Kenyatta’s office said the president and the diplomats from the 15-member Security Council held lengthy discussions on the situation in Somalia and the work of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), whose troop contributing countries include Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

Kenya says AMISOM has considerably degraded the capability of Al-Shabaab and liberated large areas previously held by the group in Somalia, which it hints has created safe areas for the return of Somali refugees abroad.

Kenya’s Interior ministry has set up a 14-member taskforce, the National Taskforce on Repatriation of Refugees, to be responsible for the repatriation of the Somali refugees Dadaab.

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