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March 22, 2018

Somali refugees living in urban centres ordered to return to camps

An aerial view of the Hagadera camp in Dadaab near the Kenya-Somalia border. The government wants refugees living in towns to return to camps ahead of November closure. Photo/ FILE
An aerial view of the Hagadera camp in Dadaab near the Kenya-Somalia border. The government wants refugees living in towns to return to camps ahead of November closure. Photo/ FILE

Somali refugees living in urban centers have been ordered to return to their designated camps.

This follows government plans to shut the Dadaab camp by November 2016.

Despite international pressure to shelve the planned closure of the refugee complex, Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery maintains the camp can no longer be tolerated.

"We therefore urge all refugees to come out in large numbers to be assisted to return home. We further ask all refugees residing in urban centers to move to their designated camps to avoid conflicts with the law," he said.

Nkaissery further said the Refugee Act of 2006 will be reviewed to "streamline" management of those seeking assylum in the country.

About 100,000 refugees are believed to live in urban centers, mainly in Nairobi.

The government has also formed the the refugee affairs directorate to replace the department which was disbanded last month.

In a speech read on his behalf by the chair of refugee repatriation taskforce Joseph Irungu, Nkaiserry said while Kenya is internationally under obligation to protect refugees, terror threats emanating from the camps become intolerable.

"This is a clear indication that it is about time that this camp comes to a close," he said.

He was speaking during this year's #WorldRefugeeDay on Monday under the theme "Get to know refugees"

"We know refugees are vulnerable and need protection and care. But terrorist elements have infiltrated camps posing as refugees. Impostors are believed to gather intelligence and help them hide weapons for them," he said.

Read also: The decision to close Dadaab final – Uhuru

"There comes a time Kenyans have to come first. The security of the nation is of paramount importance to us than anything else," he said.

He asked international community to ensure political stability in Somalia, to reduce more chances of forceful displacements of populations.

The refugees will be returned in line with tripartite agreement signed in November 2013.

The agreement has identified nine regions said to have a relative peace within Southern Somalia. They include Kismayo, Luq and Baidoa.

"We strongly appeal to the international community to help stabilizing Somalia by constructing social infrastructure and support this process of repatriation,"

World Food Programme,s head of Refugee program Abdi Farah said at least Sh 100 million is injected into the economy every month as a result of the activities of the UN body.

US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec called for sobriety even as the world discusses how to handle Kenya's latest plan to close the camp.

Read also: Dadaab closure top Uhuru, Somalia President Hassan Mohamud talks

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