Court: Kenya Must Not Close Refugee Camp

Feb 10, 2017, 01:44

The court's decision offers some breathing room to the mostly Somali refugees in the sprawling Dadaab camp, which holds hundreds of thousand of people fleeing unrest in Somalia.

High Court overturned Government's decision to close Daadab Camp and repatriate Somali refugees.

The Dadaab (Dagahaley) refugee camp in Kenya.

The decision shines a light on familiar tensions between legal obligations to protect refugees from war zones and security fears exacerbated by terror attacks by Somalia-based Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affiliate.

The threat of closure had been lingering since May 2016, when the government announced it would be sending Somali refugees back to Somalia by the end of November 2016 and disbanding the Department of Refugee Affairs.

Refugees' affairs Mativo directed the State to restore the status quo with regard to administration of refugees' affairs within the country, reinstate and operationalise the Department of Refugees Affairs with immediate effect. "This ruling reaffirms Kenya's constitutional and global legal obligation to protect people who seek safety from harm and persecution", she added. Amnesty International added on its tweet that now, durable solutions for refugees have to be found.

It also could force Kenyan authorities to draft another strategy for dealing with the camp, which the government claims is infiltrated by Islamist militant groups such as al-Shabab.

More than 250,000 refugees are housed in the complex in Dadaab, eastern Kenya.

Refugees living in Dadaab can now sigh with relief after the High Court in Nairobi blocked the government's bid to close the largest refugee camp in the world.

By closing the Camp, more than 260, 000 Somali refugees would be forcibly deported.

The government argued keeping Dadaab up and running was a security issue. "This decision is yet another blight on refugee protection globally, where again we see total failure in providing safe haven for people in danger".

MSF has described the ruling as a positive step for the scores of refugees who have been stuck in limbo since the official announcement was made. The court judgment was posted online by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which filed the case against the government.

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