Human rights groups said the decision to close Dadaab and Kakuma camps was likely to put thousands of innocent lives at risk.
“This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Wanyeki said it could lead to the involuntary return of thousands of refugees to Somalia and other countries of origin, where their lives might still be in danger.
“This would be in violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law,” Wanyeki added.
However, government has defended the move.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, Dr Karanja Kibicho, said the decision to close the camps was due to immense security challenges such as the threat of Al-Shabaab.
He said Kenya had hosted more than 600 000 refugees for over a quarter of a century and had shouldered a heavy economic, security and environmental burden.
Kibicho also asked for the support of the international community to expedite the process.
Kenya has over the years mulled the idea of closing the Dabaab, which despite being a safe haven for refugees had reportedly become a breeding ground for the Al-Shabaab terror group.
Located approximately 100 kilometres from the Kenya–Somalia border, it is home to over 320 000 refugees.
Together with Kakuma, it hosts refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda.
– CAJ News