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Respect and protect the rights of Somali refugees in Kenya

A court ruling on 9 February halted the Kenyan authorities’ plans to close Dadaab refugee camp. But the authorities have to ensure that the ruling is respected and that Somali refugees are not returned to war-torn Somalia.

With its 2016 announcement of the intention to close Dadaab, the Kenyan government created a climate of fear and anxiety amongst over 249,000 Somali refugees. People have felt left with no other option but to return to Somalia, a country still in conflict, where they have little chance of decent living conditions due to drought, lack of services and security.

The chronic lack of support from the international community to Kenya, which has been hosting refugees for decades, contributed to the government’s decision to close Dadaab refugee camp. The international community has consistently underfunded appeals made by the Kenyan government and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and has failed to resettle a significant number of refugees from Kenya to other countries.

On 9 February, Kenya’s High Court ruled the closure of the camp was unconstitutional and targeting Somali refugees an act of group persecution, illegal, and discriminatory. However the Kenyan government said it will appeal the ruling leaving Somali refugees still at risk of being forced to return to Somalia.

Despite the court order, the Kenyan government has not operationalized the Refugee Affairs Secretariat, the national body responsible for registering newly arrived refugees. Without being registered, refugees do not have access to basic services in the camp such as food and shelter. Over 3,400 new arrivals from Somalia have not been registered by the end of April.

The Kenyan government has to fulfil its obligations to protect Somali refugees fleeing conflict and the international community must support Kenya towards finding alternative durable solutions for refugees including integration in Kenya and resettlement of refugees to other countries.

On 25 March, at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Summit on Somali refugees, President Uhuru Kenyatta and other regional leaders committed to maintain the asylum space and strengthen the protection of Somali refugees. The commitments are a step in the right direction. It is now important to ensure that they are implemented.

Send a message to Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya, and ask him to ensure that refugees are not sent back to Somalia and that alternative durable solutions are sought for them.