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Court stops closure of refugee camps

By People Team
Friday, April 9th, 2021
Dadaab Refugee Camp. Photo/COURTESY
In summary

Bernice Mbugua and Zadock Angira

The High Court has stopped the closure of Daadab and Kakuma  refugee camps.

Justice Antony Mrima issued the temporary order which will run for 30 days, after former Presidential aspirant Peter Gichira filed  a petition to  challenge the closure of the said camps.

“A conservatory order staying the application and enforcement of the directive to close the Dadaab and Kakuma Refugee Camps is hereby issued for 30 days,” read the order.

Gichira who is also lawyer,  argued that the directive to close the two camps violates the Constitution of Kenya, International Laws and treaties regarding protection of refugee rights and is therefore null and void.

Creates fear

According to him, the said directive did not provide reasons supported by both facts and law as to why the government intends to undertake such drastic and draconian measures which constitute a limitation of rights under Article 24 of the constitution.

“The threatened closure of camps and forced repatriation offends all those international legal instruments protecting refugees as well as those prohibiting torture, cruelty, degrading and inhuman treatment,” he claimed  in court documents.

This comes as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has sought more time and resources to relocate refugees from the Dadaab and Kakuma camps.

UNHCR on Tuesday issued a comprehensive roadmap on the closure of the two camps, a day before the lapse of the two-weeks’ ultimatum issued by the Kenya Government.

Ultimatum was issued through Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on March 23. Sources told People Daily that the ministry had confirmed receiving the report, adding that concerned officials were studying it before action is taken.

The report says UNHCR agreed with seven out of the 10 key points that had been raised by the Kenyan Government.

UNHCR is, however, seeking more time and resources to enable them relocate the refugees. 

Amnesty International (AI) Kenya on the other hand said there was no evidence of recent escalated security arising from the camps.

It warned that the ultimatum had created fear that the principle of non-refoulement may be violated for the 500,000 refugees currently hosted by Kenya.

The principle of non-refoulement seeks to protect the most fundamental human rights of any migrant or refugee by prohibiting extradition or expulsion of any person to another country or authority when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to violations of certain fundamental rights.

Amnesty International (K) further cautioned that the circumstances within the region has not improved significantly for most refugees to safely return to their countries of origin nor have other countries come forward to resettle them.

“Conflict in Somalia and Ethiopia, pre and post-election violence in Uganda and Tanzania makes voluntary return safe and dignified untenable for most refugees,” AI Kenya’s Executive Director Houghton Irungu said on Tuesday.

He added that the closure of the camps without an orderly approach that respects refugee rights would lead to a humanitarian disaster within the global pandemic.