The United Nations refugee agency today expressed “profound concern” over the Government of Kenya's announcement this past week that it intends to end the hosting of refugees because of economic, security and environmental burdens, and called on the Government to reconsider its decision.
On 6 May, Kenya's Ministry of Interior said that the Government had disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and was working on a mechanism for the closure of the country's refugee camps – a move that could affect as many as 600,000 people, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press release.
“For almost a quarter of a century Kenya has played a vital role in East Africa and the Horn of Africa in providing asylum to people forced to flee persecution and war. The safety of hundreds of thousands of Somalis, South Sudanese and others has hinged on Kenya's generosity and its willingness to be a leading beacon in the region for international protection. Tragically, the situations in Somalia and South Sudan that cause people to flee are still unresolved today,” the agency added.
UNHCR said it has been, and will continue to be, in touch with the Kenyan Government to “fully understand the implications of its statement.”
“We recognize that Kenya has played an extraordinary role over many years as one of the world's frontline major refugee-hosting nations, and that inevitably this has had many consequences for the country and its population,” the agency said.
UNHCR said that, for these reasons, it has been a prominent advocate for “robust international support” for Kenya, including support for host communities and a “careful listening to their concerns.”
“In today's global context of some 60 million people forcibly displaced, it is more important than ever that international asylum obligations prevail and are properly supported,” UNHCR said.
“In light of this, and because of the potentially devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people that premature ending of refugee hosting would have, UNHCR is calling on the Government of Kenya to reconsider its decision and to avoid taking any action that might be at odds with its international obligations towards people needing sanctuary from danger and persecution,” the agency added.