By Samuel Ouma
Kenya’s High Court on Thursday temporarily suspended the state’s directive to have Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps closed.
Justice Antony Mrima issued the order pending the hearing and determination of an application filed by former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira challenging the government’s decision.
Gichira said the directive violates Kenya’s Constitution, International Laws, and treaties protecting refugee rights in his application.
“The actions intended by the directive are draconian and will expose the lives of innocent, helpless refugees to the danger of trauma, torture, harm and possible loss of life,” says Gichira.
He wants the court to stop the enforcement of the directive permanently.
The case will be mentioned on April 13, 2021.
Kenyan government gave UNHCR a 14-day ultimatum to develop a plan on the closure of the two camps, which host 196 000 (Dadaab) and 217,000 (Kakuma) refugees, respectively citing security threat.
Interior Cabinet Secretary told the UN agency that there is no room for negotiation.
The agency had pleaded with Kenya not to close the camps saying the move will only cause more misery to the refugees amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
It asked the East African nation to hold on until suitable and sustainable solutions are found, noting the notice was extremely short.
UNHCR further committed to supporting Kenya’s government in continuing and further strengthening the ongoing work to find orderly, sustainable, and respect refugee rights.
“UNHCR is concerned about the impact this decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue,” reiterated the agency.
On the other hand, Amnesty International urged Kenya to use its position in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to champion for more resources for refugees and host countries instead of closing.
Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director Irũngũ Houghton said the two camps’ closure without an orderly approach that respects human rights would result in a humanitarian disaster.
The two-week ultimatum expired today (Thursday, April 8).