Kenya to stop hosting Somali refugees - govt

2016-05-06 21:07
Young boys try to peer through a fence at the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp. (Tony Karumba, AFP)

Young boys try to peer through a fence at the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp. (Tony Karumba, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - Refugees from Somalia will no longer be accepted in Kenya, the government said Friday citing security fears.

"The Government of the Republic of Kenya, having taken into consideration its national security interests, has decided that hosting of refugees has to come to an end," said a statement signed by interior ministry official Karanja Kibicho.

Under the directive, newly-arrived asylum seekers will not automatically receive refugee status, and the government will step up efforts to have those already living in the country removed.

Kenya hosts around 550 000 refugees in two camps at Kakuma and Dadaab, the world's largest, many of whom have fled decades of war in neighbouring Somalia.

"The message is clear, we are closing the camps and we will not accept more refugees in the country," said Mwenda Njoka, interior ministry spokesperson.

Njoka added that the new regulations were aimed at refugees from Somalia, but those from other countries may also be affected. "The problematic ones are the Somalis. They're the ones we're starting with," he said.

In 2013 the governments of Kenya and Somalia together with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) signed a so-called tripartite agreement aimed at encouraging Somali refugees to return home voluntarily.

Only a few thousand have taken up the offer, however, leaving Kenya frustrated at the slowness.

"Kenya has been forced by circumstances to reconsider the whole issue of hosting refugees and the process of repatriation," Kibicho said, adding that the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) responsible for refugee registration and management had been "disbanded".

Refugees fled Shebaab 

A DRA employee reached by phone at work on Friday afternoon expressed surprise, saying he knew nothing of the directive.

Government and security officials regularly assert that Islamic militants from the Shebaab group hide, thrive and recruit among Somali refugees, claims denied by independent observers and by refugees themselves who point out many of them have fled Shebaab's depredations.

Following deadly Shebaab assaults on Nairobi's Westgate mall and Garissa university senior officials threatened to close Dadaab and kick out the refugees.

In April 2015, days after the Garissa attack, Deputy President William Ruto promised to close Dadaab "in three months", but that deadline - like previous ones - passed.

Friday's statement again conflated refugees and terrorists emphasising, "the immense security challenges such as threat of the Shebaab and other related terror groups that hosting of refugees has continued to pose to Kenya".

New arrivals from Somalia will no longer receive "prima facie" refugee status, but will have to argue their cases individually. However, the agency tasked with processing those applications, the DRA, is to be shut down.

Read more on:    kenya  |  somalia

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.