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Africa

Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp closure must be voluntary, UNHCR

media Aerial view of Ifo 2 refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, 29 October 2014 UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The closure of Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp must be carried out on a voluntary basis and conducted in a systematic manner, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kenya told RFI on Sunday. The UNHCR said it had not been told of plans announced by Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto to close the largest refugee camp in Africa within three months.

Interview: Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesperson, UNHCR Kenya

What is your reaction to the announcement by the Kenyan government?

We are yet to get an official communication from the government along these lines. The statement we’re talking about, we also heard about it in the media. Therefore it’s difficult for us to comment at the moment. The only thing we know is that we have signed a tripartite agreement with the government of Kenya and government of Somalia which gives us a legal framework on how the process should be handled. One of things that we highlight in that agreement is that the return should be voluntary.

How would this physically work if you did have to close Dadaab camp within three months?

It’s something that would be extremely challenging in case it has to happen. We’re talking about more than 350,000 refugees living in these camps, most of them are women and children and moving that number of people will not be possible. But one thing that we’re also mentioning and emphasising is that the return needs to be voluntarily and has to be done in a systematic manner.

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