The Kenyan government has extended the deadline for closing Dadaab Refugee Camp by another six months to allow more time for talks and funding.
Addressing journalists in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Wednesday, the Kenyan Minister for Interior Joseph Nkaisserry said the government has suspended the repatriation of Somali refugees in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, by six months.
In what seems to be a change of heart, Nkaisserry said the decision to extend the deadline was made after the United Nations High Commission of Refugees made a request asking for more time for an orderly repatriation of the more than 300,000 Somali refugees living in the camp.
“We are using the money as per the budget and the programme. So that money is being used for transport and accommodation. It is not we who are extending, but it is the international community that has made the request,” Nkaisserry said.
Earlier this year, the minister insisted that the refugee camp, which is located in northern Kenya near the border with Somalia, would be closed by the end of November.
Kenya’s decision to repatriate refugees from the camp back to war-torn Somalia by April 2017 has elicited varying responses, with many human rights organizations accusing the government of contravening international laws on refugees.
On Monday, Amnesty International released a report accusing the Kenyan government of deliberately coercing refugees in Dadaab to return to Somalia, where they risk being injured or killed in the ongoing armed conflict.
“These actions contravene the Kenyan government’s assurances to the international community that it would ensure all refugee repatriations are voluntary and carried out in safety and dignity,” Amnesty International said.
Two brothers living in the camp told Amnesty International that they had gone back to Somalia in January this year but their father was killed in front of them and they were forcibly recruited by the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.
They, however, managed to escape and return to Dadaab. The two now say they have nowhere to go.
The decision to close the refugee camp was made last year in the wake of increased terror attacks on Kenya by al-Shabab fighters, who want Kenya to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Somalia.
The Kenyan government insists the terror group is using the camp as its recruiting grounds.