NGOs urge government of Kenya to reconsider intended closure of refugee camps

Signed by: The International Rescue Committee, World Vision, the Danish Refugee Council, Jesuit Refugee Service, Action Africa Help International, the Lutheran World Federation, OXFAM, Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Heshima Kenya.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) providing assistance to refugees in Kenya acknowledge the hospitality and responsibility that the Government of Kenya has borne over decades. Despite the huge economic and social pressure, Kenya continues to host close to 600,000 (UNHCR data: As of 30th April 2016 the refugee population in Kenya stood at 598,646 refugees and asylum seekers) refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, the majority being from Somalia and South Sudan. In addition, the Burundi conflict has also led to an influx of refugees from the country into the Kakuma refugee camp. Fifty-six percent of this current refugee population in Kenya comprises women, children and the youth who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse while in displacement. The acceptance of refugees in Dadaab, Kakuma and those living in urban settings is a reflection of good practice and gesture exhibited by the Government of Kenya and host communities over the years.

However, we the undersigned NGOs view as unfortunate the position assumed by the Government of Kenya, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior on the 6th of May, 2016 that disbands the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) and indicates that this will be followed by the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma camps within the shortest time possible. The recent announcement will have far reaching implications for the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have called Kenya a place of refuge, namely:

We acknowledge the concerns raised by the Government of Kenya and do share in the need to reinforce security in the country as security is an integral part of any nation and for providing a conducive asylum environment. We therefore ask that:

The NGO community is committed to continue supporting the Government of Kenya in the search for long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees. We therefore urge the Government to withdraw the directive to disband the Department of Refugee Affairs and reconsider its intention to close refugee camps in the country in line with its good record of upholding its obligations towards hosting refugees and asylum seekers.