Garissa elders hails plans to close refugee camps

Traditional elders in Garissa county have commanded a decision by Kenyan government to close two of the largest refugee camps, Kakuma and Daadab.

Speaking on Monday at a hotel in Garissa, the elders led by the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council chair Dubat Amey said the political standoff between President Farmaajo and the opposition in Somalia could trigger a war that will have a spillover effect into Kenya.

“As the residents bordering Somalia, we know the pain of hosting refugees and we welcome the government’s move. It is time that Somalia faces the consequences of their own political actions without affecting us,” Amey said.

Last month, Kenyan government and UNHCR have inked agreement allowing Kenyan authorities to close Dadaab and Kakuma camps which host close to half a million people, mostly Somali refugees by June 30 next year.

Interior Minister Fred Matiang’I in a statement said that Kenya had formally communicated to the UNHCR its decision to close camps.

The agreement followed a meeting between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi about the status of the two refugee camps where 433,765 refugees and asylum-seekers live.

Last month, Kenya issued the UNHCR a 14-day ultimatum to formulate a plan on the closure of the refugee camps. Kenya’s Interior Ministry said there is no room for further negotiations.

The UNHCR promptly responded to the Interior Ministry warning of a catastrophe if the refugees are ejected from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps which have a population of 218,873 and 196,666, respectively.

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