By SOPHIAH MUTHONI and MAUREEN ABWAO
Kenya: The Department of Refugee Affairs in Nairobi has ordered all 600,000 refugees and asylum seekers to go back to their designated camps in Kakuma and Daadab.
The directive follows numerous cases of insecurity around the country and a major crackdown on suspected terrorists.
“The main objective of the directive is to improve the management of refugees and help security agents discharge their mandate to the public,” said Haron Komen, the Acting Commissioner for Refugee Affairs.
He said the order is not targeting any particular group of refugees, adding that it should not be confused with the ongoing repatriation of illegal immigrants.
“This is an internal matter while the repatriation exercise is being done by the Kenyan Government in partnership with respective countries,” he said.
Given the varied reactions to the directive, Komen emphasised that it was legal in terms of both local and international laws governing refugees.
“The directive follows the gazettement of the refugee designated areas as per the Refugee Act, 2006 and the Geneva Convention of 1951,” said Komen.
According to Section 16 (2) of the Refugee Act, every refugee has duties to the country in which he or she finds himself in and which require in particular that he or she conforms to its laws and regulations. It further provides that the refugees should conform to the measures taken for maintenance of public order.
Komen rubbished speculation that space and the living conditions at the camps were unfavourable.
“There is adequate space at the camps and the condition is not as deplorable as reports suggest. There are adequate amenities at every camp,” he said.
Considering the high number of refugees in the country, Komen said space at the camps was not an issue.
Komen urged all security agents to treat the refugees with respect. He said refugees are free to organise their own transport or seek help from the department of refugee affairs.
Those who would want to travel to the designated camps in a group were advised to obtain police escort or inform the department for escort arrangements.
Though the exercise was not given a particular time frame, Komen said it should start immediately.