Ex-presidential aspirant moves to court challenging closure of Dadaab, Kakuma refugee camps

Refugees wait to collect food at a centre in Kakuma. PHOTO | COURTESY | WFP
Refugees wait to collect food at a centre in Kakuma. PHOTO | COURTESY | WFP

Former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira has moved to court challenging the government’s decision to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.

Gichira said the directive on closure of the two camps violates the Constitution of Kenya, International Laws and treaties regarding the protection of refugee rights and is therefore null and void.

He is further seeking an order to permanently stop the enforcement of the directive.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on March 24, 2021 issued the UN refugee agency with a 14-day ultimatum on closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.

Dr. Matiang’i told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that there is no room for further negotiations.

This came as the second attempt by the Kenyan Government to have the camps closed and refugees repatriated.

The population of refugees in Daadab and Kakuma camps is estimated to be 217,000 and 190,000 respectively.

The UN refugee agency later urged the Kenyan Government to ensure that any decisions on the camps allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found.

Responding to the directive by CS Matiang’i, the agency called for consideration of those who live in the camps for need of protection.

“The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue,” read the statement.

UNHCR expressed its gratitude to Kenyans for ‘generously hosting refugees and asylum-seekers for several decades’ saying it recognises the impact this has had.

“UNHCR stands ready to support the Government of Kenya in continuing and further strengthening the work that is ongoing to find solutions that are orderly, sustainable and respect refugee rights,” the statement added.

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