Kenya to spend Sh1 billion for immediate repatriation of refugees from Dadaab

All refugees in the Dadaab camp will be repatriated to Somalia by May next year, the government has said, despite calls against the move.

The refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin or to third party countries for resettlement

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said to kick-start the repatriation process and subsequent closure of Dadaab Refugee Complex, the government has availed with immediate effect Sh1 billion.

A task force was gazzetted Wednesday to put in place the requisite technical infrastructure to oversee the repatriation process.

Their work will be to oversee, manage and expedite the repatriation and closure of Dadaab Refugee Complex from after May 31 when they hand in their report, said Nkaissery.

He added Kakuma will not be affected for now because it is not a security threat as Dadaab is.

The CS said the decision to fast-track repatriation of refugees is anchored in an evolving understanding by virtually all regional and international bodies that Kenya faces a serious security threat.

He said Kenya's national security organs have observed that terrorist groups such as ISIS are looking to make inroads into our region.

The camps have become hosting grounds for Al Shabaab as well as centres of smuggling and contraband trade besides being enablers of illicit weapons proliferation, he said.

Nkaissery sad African Union's April 2015 meeting had said Somalia is now safe, ready and willing to receive her citizens.

He added the meeting also noted:

"Kenya's legitimate security concerns that Dadaab Refugee camp had been infiltrated and become hideout for Al Shabaab terrorist group which exploited the camps to plan and carry out attacks against Kenya's institutions, installations and civilians..."

Nkaissery said shouldering the burden of refugees is the responsibility of the international community as a whole and not individual countries alone.

"Considering the changing landscape of global terrorism, with new terrorist entities seeking to root themselves in our region, it would be inexcusable for the government to overlook its primary constitutional responsibility to protect her citizens and their property."

He argued large-scale terror attacks such as the Westgate Shopping Mall attack, Garissa University one, the Lamu attack were planned and deployed from Dadaab Refugee Camp by transnational terrorist groups.

Over the years, our Security Agencies have thwarted and continue to thwart numerous terrorist attempts besides recovering caches of arms and arresting several terrorist suspects from Dadaab, he added.

For instance, he said, those who kidnapped Teacher Judy Mutuain October last year planned and executed their plot at Dadaab Refugee Complex.

As a result of insecurity created by existence of refugee camps, Kenya suffers the brunt of negative consequences such as travel advisories and poor humanitarian rating with obvious negative consequences to the country's economy.

Some of these attacks were aimed at the interests of our international partners yet Kenya continues to bear the brunt of these attacks on their behalf with negligible support from them.

Kenya is presently hosting over 600,000 refugees and has been doing so for a quarter of a century.

Nkaissery argued the UN Security Council in its Resolution 1269 — arrived at, two years before 9/11 — called on States to deny safe haven to those who plan, finance or commit acts of terrorism and to refrain from granting refugee status to terrorists.

The CS said Kenya appreciates the national security interests that are informing how other countries are dealing with the challenge of refugee inflows.

"We are also seeking to anchor our humanitarian character, which is recognized all over the world, in considerations that put the security of our country first."

"We will not be the first to do so; this is the standard practice worldwide. For example in Europe, rich, prosperous and democratic countries are turning away refugees from Syria, one of the worst war zones since World War Two," he added.

He argued there has been the lack of commitment to the Refugee Repatriation Kenya has been calling for.

Refugees are a responsibility of the International Community. The large amounts of monies pledged for their help should be devoted to helping them resettle back home, he said.

The CS argued refugees too have a right and obligation to contribute to the political and economic development of their countries.

"To make the matter more serious, Kenyans in AMISOM have shed blood to liberate vast parts of Somalia from Al Shabaab. That sacrifice cannot be in vain."

Global humanitarian and human rights agencies have lashed out at Kenya for going against its international obligations in protecting the rights of refugees and displaced persons.

They include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Save the Children, World Vision, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, Danish Refugee Council and the Lutheran World Federation.

The agencies said the announcement will have far-reaching implications on thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have called Kenya a place of refuge.

But Nkaissery said the decision was arrived at in November 2013, when Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR signed a Tripartite Agreement setting grounds for repatriation of Somali refugees.

The government announced on Friday it had disbanded the department of refugee affairs, the first step in closing Dadaab.