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Kenya insists on refugee camps closure despite court order

May 31, 2017 - KENYA

Kenya's government continues to insist on the closure of the vast Dadaab refugee camp by the end of the month, despite a high court order to block the proposal. Generally described as the world's biggest by numbers, Dadaab houses Somalis who have fled civil war in their home country.

The Kenyan government opened Dadaab in 1991. Situated in northeast Kenya near the Somali border, it was designed to house some 90,000 refugees as a temporary solution to Somalia's civil war and now houses 250,000 to 350,000.

The ruling Jubilee Party set the May deadline for closing Dadaab as a security measure, claiming the Somali Islamists Al-Shabab used the camp as a hideout. The Islamists have staged deadly attacks in Kenya in recent years.

The government also threatened to close Kakuma, a camp housing mainly refugees from the fighting in South Sudan. Closure of the camps would have displaced an estimated 600,000 people.

Britain's Guardian saw the government's threat as related to the general election in Aug 2017, with President Uhuru Kenyatta using it to portray himself as tough on terror. The newspaper describes the threat as cynical electioneering. It points out that threats are one thing and the reality of closing down the huge and well-established camps - now de facto cities - is something else entirely.

Somalia warns of security challenges if Kenya closes Dadaab camp (Xinhua 14 May 2016)

Kenya: Involuntary Refugee Returns to Somalia (Human Rights Watch 14 Sep 2016)

Kenya to appeal court block on closure of world's largest refugee camp (CNN 17 Feb 2017)

Dadaab closure: how 600,000 refugees got caught up in Kenya's electioneering (Guardian 11 May 2016)

Kenyan closure of Dadaab refugee camp blocked by high court (BBC 9 Feb 2017)

A look inside one of the world's largest refugee camps (CTV Canada 15 Apr 2017)

Date written/update: 2017-04-19