NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 9- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has proposed to enhance voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity of refugees living in Kenya, while taking into account the movement restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, UNHCR said in support of the Kenyan government, it will help in provision of alternative-stay arrangements to refugees from the East African Community adding that this would represent a major opportunity for refugees to become self-reliant and contribute to the local economy.
The organization further proposed to collaborate with the government in providing sustainable and right-based measures by accelerating the issuance of national ID cards to over 11,000 Kenyans who have previously been identified as registered in the refugee database.
“UNHCR recognizes the tremendous generosity that the people and Government of Kenya have demonstrated towards refugees for many decades and the need to resolve situations of longstanding displacement. We have heard the concerns expressed by the Government of Kenya and hope that these measures will be a significant step forward in accelerating sustainable solutions for all those concerned,” said Fathiaa Abdalla, UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya.
The Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps host 430,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of more than 15 nationalities. Majority of refugees in Dadaab are Somalis who fled war and insecurity in their country while most of those in Kakuma are from the neigbhbouring South Sudan.
Kenya recently warned that it lans to close the two camps, citing security reasons.
The two refugee camps are home to thousands of refugees from Somalia and other neighboring countries- with a generation of young ones born and raised there.
On March 24, Kenya had issued a 14-day ultimatum to UNHCR to provide a road map for the closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
Diplomatic sources however saw the decision by Kenya as strongly linked to the strained diplomatic relations with Somalia which filed a maritime dispute case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague but Kenya denied the claim.
The government argues that the two camps are a security threat and strains the country’s resources. There are also claims they are a breeding ground for radicalization.
For example, the 2013 Westgate Mall attack that claimed 67 lives was said to have been planned in Dadaab refugee camp, according to investigators.
On Thursday The High Court temporarily stopped the Kenyan government from closing the two refugee camps pending hearing and determination of a case by Former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira challenging the directive.
Gichira pointed out that the move is unconstitutional.
He stated that he decision violates the Constitution of Kenya, International Laws and treaties regarding protection of refugee rights and is therefore null and void.
The matter will be mentioned on April 13, 2021.