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.