Kenya to close refugee camps, displacing over 600,000

Nairobi: Kenya will close all refugee camps, a move that would displace more than 600,000 people living there, the government announced.

The decision taken on Friday includes Dadaab, the largest such camp in the world. It is home to more than 300,000 people on the Kenya-Somalia border, CNN reported on Saturday.

The government is shutting down the camps because of “very heavy” economic, security and environmental burdens, senior Interior Ministry official Karanja Kibicho said in a statement.

“Kenya, having taken into consideration its national security interests, has decided that hosting of refugees has come to an end,” Kibicho said, pointing to threats, such as the terror group Al-Shabaab.

Kenya announced the closure of refugee camps last year for the same reasons but backed down in the face of international pressure. Most of the camp residents come from Somalia, which has been torn by civil war.

At the time, government officials were not clear where they expected the refugees to go, other than somewhere into Somalia and out of Kenya.

While it is not immediately clear if or when a closure might happen, the interior ministry said it has already disbanded the department of refugee affairs as a first step.