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UN Security Council members in Nairobi on refugees’ status in Kenya

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May 22, 2016 (NAIROBI) – Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have visited Kenya to discuss the status of refugees hosted by the East African nation.

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Somali refugees wait to see the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres at the Ifo camp in Dadaab near the Kenya-Somalia border, May 8, 2015 (Photo Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

This month Kenya announced to close down refugee camps in the country, citing lack of support from the international community in order to continue hosting the hundreds of thousands of refugees mainly from Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia, among other countries.

Kenyan authorities said there was not enough support from the international community in response to its request for 500 million United States dollars in refugee-related funding which had been met with an international response of only some 100 million dollars.

Growing Kenyan frustration finally led to the announcement about the closure of the camps, with outcry from the international community asking Nairobi to reverse the decision.

Kenya was also concerned about insecurity in the country brought about allegedly by the Somali refugees who used camps like Dadaab as havens for terrorists, such as Al-Shabaab, and asked for massive return of the Somali refugees back to Somalia.

However, a meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and members of the UN Security Council in Nairobi on Tuesday and Wednesday brought about renewed understanding, with Kenya agreeing to continue to host the refugees.

The world’s body on its part promised to mobilize the international community to continue to support Kenya in shouldering the hosting of the refugees.

UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia and humanitarian coordinator, Peter de Clercq, reminded Council members of Somalia’s significant humanitarian needs, while also noting that long-term development solutions are closely linked with security and political processes.

Clercq said a massive return of refugees to Somalia would be utterly unsustainable, with returnees ending up in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which would be against policy of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) of not repatriating refugees to camps in their own country.

UNHCR asserted that although there was a sense in Kenya that the presence of Somali refugees had led to greater insecurity, links between refugee camps hosting Somali refugees and recent terror attacks in Kenya had not been clearly established.

President Kenyatta reiterated Kenya’s commitment to fulfill its international obligations, claiming that it had done more than any country in the world in this regard.

He however said Kenya was beginning to feel that its efforts were taken for granted by the international community, and that international support was not commensurate with the burden, which now also included security threats.

“The refugee camps had become breeding grounds for terrorists and a hiding place for weapons,” he said.

Kenyatta noted that Kenya had signed a tripartite agreement three years ago with Somalia and UNHCR on the voluntary repatriation of refugees, but asserted that funding had been less than promised and there had been no progress.

There are two major refugee camps in Kenya, including Dadaab and Kakuma, hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees.

(ST)

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