Kenya’s decision to close Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest refugee camp, is impractical and likely to jeopardize the good relations Kenya has with Somalia, according to Somalia’s Ambassador to the US, Ahmed Awad.
Awad was speaking to Al Jazeera on Thursday when he warned Kenya about its plan to shut down the refugee camp, which is estimated to host at least 340,000 people, predominantly from war-torn Somalia. He appealed to the Kenyan government to consider the potential diplomatic fallout of their decision.
“I think Kenyans and Somalis have developed closeness throughout the years. This issue should not undermine the progress that our countries have made together,” Awad told Al Jazeera.
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Kenya’s Decision is Final
Awad’s warning comes after Monday’s announcement by Kenya’s Minister for Interior and Coordination RT General Joseph Nkaiserry that Kenya has finally decided to shut down Dadaab refugee camp by the end of November, this year. Nkaiserry emphasized that “the decision is final” in his announcement.
The minister also explained that the Kenyan government will be collaborating with the federal government of Somalia and the United Nations in the repatriation process.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Thursday, Kenya’s Interior Ministry spokesman Mr. Mwenda Njoka refuted claims that Kenya intends to “dump” refugees in Somalia, adding that Kenya has already made plans with the government of Jubaland in Somalia to set aside at least 10,000 acres of land in Northern Kismayo where the repatriated refugees will be settled.
However, Ambassador Awad argued that the resettlement plan is in direct violation of a 2013 tripartite agreement with Somalia and the UN refugee agency, which supported voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees.
Over the past year, Kenya has cited security concerns as a primary reasons for closing down Dadaab refugee camp, which was established in 1991 to host refugees fleeing from Somalia following a civil war.
Kenyan officials say the refugee camp is now a safe haven for the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group. Militants affiliated with Al-Shabaab have been carrying out numerous terror attacks in Kenya ever since 2011, when the Kenya Defense Forces were deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
The first decision to close down the camp was made last year, following Al-Shabaab’s deadly Garissa University attack, which left 140 university students dead.
The Kenyan government argues that the Somali militants used the refugee camp to plan and execute the attack.
Garissa Univeristy is approximately 100 kilometers from the camp.