Human rights groups wants Kenya to rescind its position on closure of Dadaab refugee camp

Human rights groups wants Kenya to rescind its position on closure of Dadaab refugee camp
  • The government should abandon their verdict to close the Dadaab refugee camp and have the Somali refugees remain in camp until the existing  ‘conditions’ in their motherland improves.
  • Kenya must protect and assist Somali refugees and asylum seekers facing ongoing conflict and a humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
  • The lobbyist said that Kenya must make sure refuges  return home in safety and with dignity
  • Kenya plays host to an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that kicks off today March 24-25, 2017.
  • During the conference, Kenya’s role as host of refugees from South Sudan and Somalia will be discussed as it is marred by continued insistence by authorities on closing Dadaab refugee camp by May.

A group of civil societies have petitioned the Kenyan government to reconsider their earlier decision to shut down Dadaab refugee camp to more than 249,000 Somali refugees.

Under the banner Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the lobbyists said on Friday that in line with a recent High Court decision, the government should abandon their verdict to close the Dadaab refugee camp and have the Somali refugees remain in camp until the existing  ‘conditions’ in their motherland improves.

“Kenya should demonstrate leadership by declaring that Dadaab will remain open and that it will resume prima facie recognition of Somali refugees,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch.

He continued, “Kenya and neighbouring Eastern African countries, supported by international partners, should urgently assist and protect refugees facing continuing conflict and drought in Somalia.”

The activists maintain that Kenya must protect and assist Somali refugees and asylum seekers facing ongoing conflict and a humanitarian crisis in Somalia, in addition to, assisting them to return home in safety and with dignity.

READ MORE: Dadaab camp: Majority of Kenyans want shelter closed

The petition comes a time when Kenya plays host to an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit that will bring together Eastern African heads of state to discuss the situation of Somali refugees in the region, as the threat of pervasive drought and food insecurity in Somalia looms.

The summit kicks off today March 24-25, 2017,

During the conference, Kenya’s role as host of refugees from South Sudan and Somalia will be discussed as it is marred by continued insistence by authorities on closing Dadaab refugee camp by May.

In May 2016, the Kenyan government removed prima facie refugee status – meaning recognising refugee status based simply on nationality – for Somalis and disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs, charged with processing asylum claims.

It also announced plans to speed up the repatriation of Somali refugees, and to close Dadaab camp in north-eastern Kenya by November, subsequently extended to May.

On February 9, Kenya’s High Court ruled that the government’s May 2016 directives were unconstitutional and discriminated against Somalis.

The High Court also ordered the Kenyan government to restore the administration of refugee affairs to the status quo prior to the government’s decision.

However, the Kenyan government has not taken steps to carry out the ruling. On March 8, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya repeated that Kenya’s decision to close Dadaab camp was final.

In 2016, Kenyan authorities, with officials from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, stepped up a 2013 “voluntary” repatriation program.

READ MORE: Kenya slams HRW report on Dadaab refugees

Research by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International research in Dadaab and interviews with more than 100 Somali refugees found that Kenya had not given them a real choice between continuing to receive asylum in Kenya and returning to Somalia.

The survey found out that the repatriation program had violated the international principle of nonrefoulement – forced return of people to places where they would face persecution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, or other threats to their lives or freedom – which is binding on Kenya as party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 African Union Refugee Convention.

“Registration of refugees in Dadaab has been sporadic since 2011 and has been entirely suspended, with some exceptions, since August 2015,” read part of the report.

According to a UN monitoring network, forced evictions increased in late 2016, with more than 60,000 new evictions since November alone.

“Given the ongoing drought and security crisis in Somalia, it’s high time Kenya’s international partners help to ensure that Somalis can find safety and humanitarian assistance in neighbouring countries,” Amnesty International Muthoni Wanyeki reckoned.

Ms Wanyeki said that International community and donor countries should guarantee adequate technical and financial support to the Kenyan government and civil society to come up with sustainable, long-term durable solutions for refugee integration into the country.

READ MORE: Kenya slams HRW report on Dadaab refugees

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