The Kenyan government has ordered all refugees across the country to return to their designated camps. While issuing this directive, Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku also warned that any person caught violating the directive will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
This follows recent attacks on a church at the coastal city of Mombasa and increased threats in the country which are attributed to Somali militants. However, the Somali community says the directive would unfairly punish innocent people. All refugee registration centres in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, Isiolo and Nakuru have also been closed despite protests by human rights groups.
The minister defended the move as part of the measures the country is taking to address the increasing threat of terrorism in the country. Kenyan security officials also believe militants have used the refugee camps as bases to prepare attacks and then mingled with residents in urban areas to carry them out. Al Shabaab militants have threatened to carry out further attacks if Kenyan troops do not withdraw from Somalia.
Following the deadly Westgate terror attack in September 2013, Kenya, Somali and UNHCR signed an agreement to start the repatriation process, a journey that would eventually lead to the closure of the refugees’ camps. This would see some refugees who have known the camps as their home, make the first visit to their country. However, the process has recorded slow progress amid reluctance by most immigrants to return home.