, NAIROBI, Dec 18 – Tens of thousands of refugees living in urban areas in Kenya must return to camps, the government said on Tuesday, demanding all aid be cut off outside the camps.
“All asylum seekers and refugees from Somalia should report to Dadaab refugee camps, while asylum seekers from other countries should report to Kakuma refugee camp,” an official statement printed in national newspapers read.
The order follows a spate of attacks in Kenya’s northeastern Somali regions as well as in the capital Nairobi, with several blasts in the largely ethnic Somali district of Eastleigh.
The attacks are regularly blamed on members or sympathisers of Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab fighters, although they have made no claim to the series of blasts, which escalated after Kenyan troops invaded Somalia last year.
Police have since launched a tough crackdown focusing largely on refugees, including mass arrests sweeping up young men of Somali origin suspected of being connected to the attackers.
The two camps – Dadaab in Kenya’s arid northeast, the world’s largest refugee camp complex, and Kakuma, in the remote northwest – are already beyond their capacity.
Over 33,600 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, while Kenya hosts refugees from nine nations in total.
“The government of Kenya has decided to stop reception, registration and close down all registration centres in the urban areas with immediate effect,” read the statement from Badu Katelo, acting commissioner for refugee affairs.
“UNHCR and other partners serving refugees are asked to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in the urban areas and transfer the same services to the refugee camps,” the order added.
Dadaab, around a 100 kilometres from the restive border with Somalia, hosts over 468,700 mainly Somali refugees, but is already full to capacity.
Kakuma, around a 100 kilometres from the border with South Sudan, hosts over 103,600 refugees, almost half of whom are Somalis, the rest largely being made up of Sudanese or South Sudanese.
UNHCR warned last month that the camp has surpassed its original capacity of 100,000.