Kenya plans to close Dadaab refugee camp

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Tents fill the outskirts of Dagahaley refugee camp in Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex on July 24, 2011.PHOTO | PHIL MOORE | AFP
Tents fill the outskirts of Dagahaley refugee camp in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex on July 24, 2011.PHOTO | PHIL MOORE | AFP

Kenya plans to shut the world’s largest refugee camp, home to nearly a quarter of a million people, in the next few months, according to an internal UN document seen by AFP Tuesday.

The three-decade-old Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya, which shelters mostly Somalis, would be closed by the end of August under the Kenyan plan, it said.

A United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) document dated February 28 said the Kenyan government had sent a note verbale informing it of “plans to close the Dadaab camps within a six-month period”.

The note, which was dated February 19, asked UNHCR “to expedite relocation of the refugees and asylum-seekers residing therein.”

In the document, the UNHCR said it was committed to working with the government on voluntary repatriation to countries of origin, relocating refugees to other parts of Kenya and resettlement to third countries.

An aid worker in Dadaab, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP that all international organisations were aware of a plan to close the camp, but the “government is keeping it low profile.”

Dadaab is home to some 230,000 people, the vast majority of them Somalis who fled across the border following the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

The latest effort to shut it comes shortly after the January 15 attack on the Dusit hotel and office complex in Nairobi that left 21 dead. At least 12 suspects were arrested in Dadaab in connection with the attack.

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