Kenya to shut down world's biggest refugee camp

The Kenyan govt will shut down the Dadaab refugee camp which is home to around 350,000 Somalians refugees.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Newly-arrived refugees run away from a cloud of dust at the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, near Kenya's border with Somalia in Garissa County, Kenya, July 16, 2011

Kenya said Wednesday it had set aside $10 million to help fund the closing of the world's largest refugee camp, home to around 350,000 mostly Somali refugees.

Kenya hosts around 600,000 refugees, some of whom have lived in the country for a quarter of a century.

On Friday an interior ministry official announced a plan to refuse new refugee arrivals and shut the Dadaab camp on the Kenya-Somalia border.

"The refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin or to third party countries for resettlement," Interior Minister Joseph Ole Nkaissery told a press conference in Nairobi.

Nkaissery said the government would provide $10 million (just under nine million euros) "to kick-start the repatriation process and subsequent closure of Dadaab", adding that a timetable was being drawn up.

Charities and the UN refugee agency are dismayed by the plan while human rights groups have warned that forcibly repatriating refugees would break international law.

Nkaissery repeated claims that attacks on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, at Kenya's Garissa university and elsewhere, "were planned and deployed from Dadaab refugee camp by transnational terrorists," but no credible evidence has yet been provided to support these allegations.

Nkaissery compared Kenya's Somali refugees to Syrian refugees in Europe.

He said DAESH had taken advantage of refugee inflows and processes to install its destructive cells and added:

“So much so that governments across Europe and the Middle East have taken unprecedented efforts to limit refugee inflows into their countries on the grounds of national security," he said.

Nkaissery said Kenya, too, faces a potential threat from the DAESH , adding: "Kenya cannot look aside and allow this threat to escalate any further."

"This decision has been made by government reflecting the fact that the camps have become hosting grounds for Al Shabab as well as centres of smuggling and contraband trade besides being enablers of illicit weapons proliferation," Nkaissery said.

Dadaab residents, aid agencies on the ground and independent observers deny that militants find a safe haven there, while numerous reports have highlighted the role of corrupt Kenyan officials in the smuggling of charcoal, sugar and people through Dadaab.