Kenya delayed closure of world largest refugee camp

Kenya delayed closure of world largest refugee campThe Kenya’s government on Wednesday has agreed to extend the closure of Dadaab refugee camp by six months to May 2017, following a request last week by a special UNHCR envoy on the Somali situation.

Kenya had vowed to shut Dadaab camp this month, saying it was being used by al Shabaab militants who continue to sporadic attacks in several parts of the country.

But rights groups criticised the decision saying it would hurt Somalis fleeing violence and poverty, and further accused Kenya of forcibly sending them back to a war zone. The government dismissed the allegation.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Nkaissery said the extension gives the international community time to ensure refugees return to a safe place.

"The government has accepted the request to extend the deadline for the completion of repatriation of Somali refugees, and this is essential to the closure of the Dadaab refugee complex, by six months,"
he told journalists in Nairobi on Wednesday.

"The elaborate repatriation programme will begin in December because of the delicate security situation in Somalia,"
Nkaissery said.

He also noted the closure of the camp, for security and economic reasons, does not mean Kenya will no longer receive refugees.

He said all non-Somali refugees will be moved to other camps in February 2017.

The government had set November 30 as the deadline for closing the camp which at the time was home for more than 300,000 Somali refugees.

But Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said on Monday that Kenya will not meet the deadline because Somalia could not yet guarantee basic social services for returning refugees.

This was the country's first public acknowledgement that the deadline would be missed.

Dadaab had 326,000 refugees at the end of May.

According to UNHCR data, only 34,900 refugees had returned home by last week while 276,269 were still in the camp.
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