The Kenyan government Wednesday announced it had postponed the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp — the largest in the world — by six months, just a day after Amnesty International accused the state of pressuring refugees to go home.
Making the announcement, Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Nkaisserry said the government decision to close the refugee facility by the end of November was based on serious security considerations.
He said the government reconsidered after receiving a request from UNHCR Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to postpone the closure date, citing the delicate situation in Somalia, among other factors.
“Today I wish to announce that the government has accepted the request to extend the deadline for the completion of repatriation of Somali refugees and eventual closure of the Dadaab Refugee Complex by six months,” Nkaisserry told reporters outside his office in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Nkaisserry said the repatriations would be carried out in a humane, safe and dignified manner once the process begins next May.
The Kenyan official said that in June 2017 all non-Somali refugees will be relocated to other UNHCR camps; in July, August and September all Somali refugees — numbering more than 280,000 — will be relocated to their home country.
Amnesty International on Tuesday released a report warning that the Kenyan government is breaking international law by forcing refugees to go back to Somalia — a country still plagued by armed conflict — which would result in innocent deaths.
Kenya has also announced that it will host a special summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Nairobi to discuss the Somali refugee crisis.