Kenya has announced that it has extended the closing date of Dadaab refugee camp for six months, sparing 200,000 refugees to stay in its territory. The country took the measure after requested by UNHCR to do so. Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, stated that the “volatile security situation in Somalia and ongoing elections had made it difficult for Kenya and other partners to meet the deadline” which was set for the end of November 2016. Although the UN has welcomed the announcement it urged the country to “show flexibility” regarding the Plan arguing “rigid time-frames will be difficult to meet.”
The process of repatriation will be issued starting December, reported Aljazeera. In January the country has aimed to relocate non-Somali refugees to other UNHCR camps while in the third month of the period it set to complete the relocation of Somali refugees to third countries. It is been expected to be done before the fourth and fifth month in which the government is said to begin rehabilitation programmes in the area. The country has announced 1 billion for the process. However, Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, take the new deadline in May to close the camp will not met since “it has also been apparent for a while now that it was logistically impossible to close the camp.”
Kenya, on the other hand, has promised for a safe, dignified process of repatriation process. Against these statements, concerned international organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticize the country for forcing the refugees to get back to Somalia. Both organizations demand the Kenyan government to allow refugees to remain in the country until it is safe for them to return.
Gerry Simpson, a researcher at HRW claimed that “Forcible returns are illegal” as it violates refugees’ rights arguing “Kenya must end its threats to close Dadaab.” Similarly Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes stated that “thousands of refugees remain at risk of forced repatriation to a war-torn country where they are at risk of death or injury in the ongoing conflict.” UN and donor governments have been urged to do more than merely extending deadline.
In the last two years 35,000 refugees have been repatriated while 262,000 refugees still remain at Dadaab Camp. In addition to being a risk to refugees’ life, the action has been feared to lay a fertile ground and to facilitate Islamist groups’ forceful recruitment.
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