AFRICA/KENYA - Concern of the Church for the closure of refugee camps

Saturday, 14 May 2016 refugees  

Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) – There is great concern regarding the announcement of the Kenyan government to close the refugee camps
in Dadaab (considered the largest refugee camp in the world with over 320,000 people, mostly Somalis), and Kakuma (which welcomes more than 190,000 people) and the government has also disbanded the Department for Refugee Affairs (DRA).
On 13 May the Commission for Refugees, migrants and seafarers of the Episcopal Conference of Kenya took part in a meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Kenyan Government and other stakeholders to assess the situation.
According to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, the main reason for the move by Government to close refugee camps is because the Tripartite Agreement is not working hence triggering frustration by Kenya. The Tripartite Agreement is a refugee repatriation plan signed between UNHCR, the Government of Kenya, and the Somali Government in 2013.
The press release also states that the Government of Kenya has indicated that the announcement only affects the Dadaab Refugee camp and not Kakuma and urban refugees yet "the statement has not been supported by any formal announcement".
Particular concern has been expressed both by the Episcopal Conference, and the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), for the disbandment of the Department for Refugee Affairs, because this involves the non-registration of asylum applicants and the release of permits for humanitarian workers.
According to the Bishops, the responsibility of the situation must be shared between the government of Nairobi and the international community, which "did not adequately recognize the security challenges faced by Kenya, as a result the Government is overwhelmed and frustrated. As a result the Government has demonstrated negativity towards accommodating refugees and also to all agencies dealing with the refugees as exhibited by the disbandment of DRA".
On May 25, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will travel to Kenya to try to find an agreement with the local authorities. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 14/05/2016)