NAIROBI, MAY 10, 2016(CISA)-United Nations has called on Kenya not to close Kakuma and Daadab refugee camps citing devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of families living in the camps.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said the closure of the camps risked worsening the current global refugee crisis.
“The safety of hundreds of thousands of Somalis, South Sudanese and others has (long) hinged on Kenya’s generosity and its willingness to be a leading beacon in the region for international protection,” UNHCR said in a statement May 9.
“Tragically, the situations in Somalia and South Sudan that cause people to flee are still unresolved today,” it added.
“In light of this, and because of the potentially devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people that premature ending of refugee hosting would have, UNHCR is calling on the government of Kenya to reconsider its decision,” it said.
The government in a statement May 6 said that it was planning “to close refugee camps on its soil and would no longer automatically grant refugee status to arriving asylum seekers.”
“As a result of hosting these refugees the Government of Kenya has continued to shoulder very heavy economic, security and environmental burden on behalf of the region and the international community,” read the statement in part by Interior Principal Secretary Dr Karanja Kibicho.
“Under the circumstances the Government of the Republic of Kenya having taken into consideration its national interests has decided that hosting of refugee has to come to an end,” added the statement.
The government has since disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs as a first step towards the permanent closure of the camps.
According to UNHCR, Kenya hosts over 550,000 refugees in camps in the north of the country in the two main camps of Daadab and Kakuma.
Dadaab camp in the northeast, the world’s largest, mainly accommodates refugees from neighboring Somalia whereas Kakuma camp hosts people fleeing a civil war in South Sudan.