Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "The closure of the refugee camp in Dadaab will undoubtedly have consequences not only for hundreds of thousands of refugees but for the entire region", say the Catholic Bishops of Kenya in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, in which they express their profound opposition to the announcement of the government in Nairobi to close the largest refugee camp in the world (see Fides 14/05/2016).
After noting that "for years Kenya has been at the forefront in the noble humanitarian effort to host refugees from neighboring countries and beyond", the Bishops recall the principles of the Constitution of Kenya (Art. 27 which states that the State cannot carry out any for of discrimination) and the international obligations arising from the UN refugee Convention of 1951 and that of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) of 1968, which "obliges the government to protect refugees during their stay in Kenya, prohibits all forms of forced return, and keeps the civil and humanitarian character of the camps".
"In line with national and international obligations as well as with Catholic teachings, we ask the government to demonstrate a sincere commitment to the needs of all without distinction, especially refugees", underline the Bishops.
If the Kenyan government has justified the decision to close the camps for national security reasons, the Bishops recognize "the genuine concerns of the government and appreciate the determination to strengthen security, but this must be done for the care and protection of all those who live within the borders of Kenya". The Bishops recall another article of the Constitution, 228, which states: "we must pursue national security in accordance with the law and with full respect of the laws, rules of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms".
Having reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate with the authorities to find "long-term sustainable solutions for refugees", the Bishops conclude asking the government to reconsider its decision and to pursue the path of dialogue to "ensure a peaceful and voluntary repatriation of refugees". Meanwhile the reactivation of the Department for Refugee Affairs is strong recommended. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 19/05/2016)