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Kenyan court suspends government move to close 2 refugee camps

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Kenya’s interior ministry had given the UN refugee agency 14 days, which ended Wednesday, to come up with a plan to close the camps, saying there was no room for further negotiations.

The Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya holds more than 200,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, which has not recognized peace since the ousting of longtime dictator Siad Barre in 1991. The Kakuma camp in northern Kenya hosts nearly 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most from civil war of South Sudan.

Gichira, who is a lawyer, argues that the directive to close two camps violates Kenya’s constitution as well as international laws and treaties regarding the protection of refugee rights.

The threatened closure of camps and forced repatriation offends all those international legal instruments that protect refugees, as well as those that prohibit torture, cruelty, degrading and inhuman treatment, Gichira said in his court appearance.

Any repatriation of refugees should be based on the principle that such people return to their countries of origin voluntarily and without any undue influence or pressure, he added.

The Kenyan government has said for years that it would like to close the Dadaab camp near the Somali border, calling it a source of insecurity. Some officials have described it as a recruiting ground for jihadist rebels of the extremist group al-Shabab and a base for launching violent attacks inside Kenya.

A Kenyan court in 2017 blocked the closure of Dadaab, saying it was not safe for refugees to return to Somalia.

The latest government request to the UN refugee agency is seen as revenge against Somalia for insisting on pursuing a case in the International Court of Justice over a controversial maritime border between the two countries. Kenya wants the case resolved out of court.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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