Kenya could post­pone Dadaab camp clo­sure

Dead­line was set for Novem­ber 30. Only 34,900 refugees have re­turned home, 276,269 still in camp as tri­par­tite deal ex­pires

The Star (Kenya) - - News General - ADOW MO­HAMED @ad­owmo

Kenya will not shut down the Daadab refugee camp by the end of the month af­ter all.

In­te­rior Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Joseph Nkaissery in May promised to close the camp, which at the time was home to more than 300,000 So­mali refugees. The gov­ern­ment set Novem­ber 30 as the dead­line.

Ac­cord­ing to UNHCR data, only 34,900 refugees had re­turned home by last Satur­day, with 276,269 still in the camp. Since the start of the repa­tri­a­tion, 99 con­voys and 160 flights have left for So­ma­lia, 66,650 refugees have ap­proached the re­turn home help desks, while 66,252 have in­di­cated their de­sire to go back, the UN agency said in an up­date.

The tri­par­tite agree­ment signed in 2014 by Kenya, So­ma­lia and the UN refugee agency lapses to­day. The agree­ment of­fered a le­gal frame­work for So­mali refugees’ re­turn un­der a UN-mon­i­tored pro­gramme.

UNHCR Spe­cial En­voy on the So­mali Refugee Sit­u­a­tion Mo­hamed Af­fey yes­ter­day hinted the agree­ment will be rene­go­ti­ated for pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion. He spoke in Dadaab.

Af­fey de­nied the refugees face un­due co­er­cion and in­tim­i­da­tion from the Kenyan se­cu­rity agen­cies. He said the re­turn is vol­un­tary and hu­mane.

In­te­rior min­istry spokesper­son Mwenda Njoka said the gov­ern­ment has never is­sued an ul­ti­ma­tum to close the camp, and in­di­cated the pe­riod might be ex­tended.

“The gov­ern­ment just set a tar­get and when tar­gets fail, they are resched­uled,” he said.

Nkaiserry in May said the de­ci­sion to close the camp is “ex­plicit and fi­nal”, rais­ing lo­cal and global con­cerns of refugee rights abuses and mass dis­place­ments.

Af­fey urged host coun­tries to re­spect hu­man­i­tar­ian laws. A sur­vey done last month by Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, a med­i­cal char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion, said more than 80 per cent of refugees are un­will­ing to go back home.

/REUTERS

A view of the Ha­gadera camp mar­ket in Dadaab on May 8 last year

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