Amnesty International has accused the Kenyan government of working to dislodge thousands of Somali refugees from their “homes” in Dadaab by forcibly closing the world’s biggest refugee camp. According to the BBC, Kenyan authorities remain keen on closing the Dadaab refugee camp, with government officials telling members of the sprawling community of more than a quarter of a million people that they will be forced to leave if they are not gone by the end of November.
The Kenyan government is reportedly offering each refugee $20o and other incentives if they leave the camp immediately. According to reports, all refugees will be forced to leave when the camp eventually shuts down, but they won’t be eligible to receive similar financial support.
Kenyan authorities have denied any claim of coercion, with government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe saying that reports of the government forcing refugees out of the camp is untrue, while admitting that authorities have offered refugees incentives to encourage them to return to Somalia.
“We see some wavering, but basically the bulk of the refugees agree that they need to start a good life. They are actually willing to move,” he said.
“It is not the government coercion. When the details of the relocation were shared with them, they thought it was fair.”
Amnesty International has also accused the United Nations of not properly educating the refugees about their rights to choose to remain in Dadaab as refugees if they so desire, as provided by international humanitarian law.
The human rights group further lamented the fact that the UN and other organizations have greatly under-reported the dangers of returning to Somalia, which is still unstable following years of fighting and conflict by terror group al-Shabaab.
Dadaab, which is a semi-arid town in Garissa County in eastern Kenya, is home to more than 300,000 refugees of mostly Somali origin. The camp, located on Kenya’s border with Somalia, was constructed in 1992 and at its peak was home to an estimated half a million people.
The camp is currently run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The governments of Kenya and Somalia signed agreements in 2013 for the repatriation of refugees at the camp.
Ahead of next year’s general election, Kenya’s government is determined to shut down the camp, which it considers an access point for Islamist terror group al-Shabab to infiltrate the country and undermine the work of counter-terror security operatives.