UNHCR statement on the future of Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Karin de Gruijl to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 April 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Government of Kenya has announced that the Dadaab refugee camps should be closed within three months and the 350,000 Somali refugees living there returned to their country. The Government's decision was announced this past weekend following the horrific attack at Garissa University earlier this month.

UNHCR too has been shocked and appalled by the Garissa attack. High Commissioner António Guterres and his staff stand in solidarity with the people of Kenya. We reiterate our condolences to the families of all the victims.

Kenya has been generously hosting and protecting refugees from violence and persecution in neighbouring Somalia for more than two decades. UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya and we understand well the current regional security situation and the seriousness of the threats Kenya is facing. We also recognize the obligation of the Government to ensure the security of its citizens and other people living in Kenya, including refugees.

UNHCR is nevertheless concerned that abruptly closing the Dadaab camps and forcing refugees back to Somalia would have extreme humanitarian and practical consequences, and would be a breach of Kenya's international obligations.

We are thus urging the Kenyan authorities to give the matter further consideration. UNHCR stands ready to work even more closely with the Government of Kenya to strengthen law enforcement at Dadaab and support other measures to protect refugees and Kenyans alike against possible intrusion by armed actors from across the border.

In December 2014, a pilot scheme was launched to support people who seek to voluntarily repatriate to one of three relatively safe areas of Somalia, namely Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo. We are ready to work with the Governments of Kenya and Somalia to step up this program where there are opportunities for voluntary repatriation. Nonetheless, for now UNHCR considers that large-scale returns are still not possible in many parts of the country, in particular to South Central Somalia.

UNHCR reiterates it continued commitment to supporting the Government of Kenya in its protection of Somali refugees going forward.

For further information on this topic:

  • In Nairobi: Raouf Mazou,mobile +254 716 359 655
  • In Nairobi: Emmanuel Nyabera,mobile +254 733 995 975
  • In Geneva: Karin de Gruijl, mobile +41 79 255 9213
  • In Geneva: Babar Baloch, mobile +41 79 557 9106