Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kenya learns from Europe

At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns. The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.” Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin. War-torn Somalia is facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation. The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displaced and killed millions, worsened access to food and water and destroyed schools and hospitals.

International human rights groups have lambasted the move. The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable. Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” She concluded, “Forced return to situations of persecution or conflict is not an option.”

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

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