The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Kenya to reconsider its three months ultimatum to relocate refugees from the Dadaab camp to Somalia.
If effected, the commission says it would cause “extreme” humanitarian consequences.
“We are thus urging the Kenyan authorities to give the matter further consideration. UNHCR stands ready to work closely with the Government of Kenya to strengthen law enforcement at Dadaab and support other measures to protect refugees and Kenyans alike against possible intrusion by armed actors from across the border,” Spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Karin de Gruijl, told journalists in Geneva.
Yet forcing refugees back to Somalia would have severe practical consequences, and would be a breach of Kenya’s international obligations.
Kenya has hosted and protected refugees from violence and persecution in neighbouring Somalia for more than two decades, she added.
UNHCR says it will also support other measures to protect refugees and Kenyans alike against possible intrusion by armed actors from across the border.
In December 2014, a pilot scheme was launched to support people who seek to voluntarily repatriate to one of three relatively safe areas of Somalia, namely Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo.
“We are ready to work with the Governments of Kenya and Somalia to step up this program where there are opportunities for voluntary repatriation,” UNHCR said, reiterating its commitment to support Kenya in its protection of Somali refugees going forward.
A week ago, the Kenya deputy President, William Ruto, issued an ultimatum to the United Nations demanding the evacuation of more than 600,000 Somali refugees out of his country, or else his government does so.
Ruto made the demand Saturday to the U.N.’s refugee agency, giving it three months to move out every last refugee from the Dadaab camps, the largest in the world.
More than 600,000 refugees reside in the camp, which is located just more than 50 miles from the Somalia-Kenya border in the Garissa District, the same district where terrorists stormed a university a week ago and killed 147 people.
He accused refugees of harbouring Somali insurgents, Al Shabaab who continue to terrorise Kenya.