More refugees expected in Kakuma as Kenya postpones closure of Dadaab camp

East Africa
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[Kakuma, Kenya, TCT] More refugees are expected at Kakuma Refugee Camp, after Kenya postponed its decision to close Dadaab Refugee Camp, and announced that non-Somali refugees will be relocated to Kakuma from December.

This announcement was made by Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, citing the unstable security situation currently prevailing in Somalia. He had announced that Kenya would close the camp by end of November because of security concerns.

Kakuma Refugee Camp is home to thousands of South Sudanese refugees who fled from their country because of insecurity, brought about by violence as a result of differences between politicians.

This decision means the population of Kakuma (which stands at approximately 185,000), will increase, leading to increased pressure on the available facilities. It is not clear as of now how many refugees will be relocated to Kakuma.

Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya was initially in 1991 for a capacity of upto 90,000 people. By August this year, Danish Refugee Council (DRC) estimated that 185,000 people were living in the camp. The conflict in South Sudan has caused Kakuma to expand exponentially since it was established in1991. An increase in the number of refugees will make the camp situation worse.

After renewed fighting broke out in Juba in July between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, refugees have been arriving by the hundreds every week in Kakuma in search of  safety and basic services.  

Kenya had earlier announced that it would close the camp by end of November. However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been opposed to this move, saying that refugees ought to go back to their country on a voluntary basis, and not forcefully.

The minister said Kenya made the decision in response to a request by UNHCR. As a result, the tripartite agreement that had been signed between Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR to have Somali refugees repatriated by the end of this year will now elapse. The agreement provided a legal framework for Somali refugees to return home voluntarily under a UN-monitored programme.

The Kenya government has been under a lot of pressure from international human rights bodies - Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International - which have condemned the decision by Kenya to close the refugee camp, saying that the decision violates the rights of refugees to voluntary repatriation.

The minister said Dadaab currently houses 262,000 refugees, most of them from Somalia. Since the relocation programme started, 16,000 have been relocated back to Somalia in the last six months.

The South Sudan peace deal that was expected to restore peace in the country has virtually collapsed, with experts saying failure to implement key elements of the agreement, such as the re-integration and demobilization of combatants, have allowed tension and instability to continue.


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