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No Where to Go

Terrifying, shocking, a rejection of humanity – these are just some of the words used by residents of Kenya’s two largest refugee camps to describe their fear and despondency over the news that the government is trying to have the settlements shut down imminently. On March 24, Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i declared the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) had two weeks to come up with a plan for closing the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, which between them host some 410,000 people from more than a dozen countries, including Somalis, South Sudanese, Ethiopians, Tanzanians, Ugandans and Burundians. In response to Kenya’s announcement, the UNHCR said it was grateful for the generosity of the Kenyan government for hosting so many refugees for so long (Dadaab was established some 30 years ago), but was “concerned about the impact this decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic”. The agency also said it would continue dialogue with the Kenyan authorities before the April 6 deadline and urged the government to “ensure that any decisions allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found and that those who continue to need protection are able to receive it”.