Kenya has announced plans to close the refugee camps on its territory and to rapidly repatriate refugees who, in some cases, have lived in the camps for over 20 years. A collective of 11 NGOs, including Handicap International, have signed a joint statement reminding the Kenyan government of its obligation towards the refugees.
Home to some 600,000 refugees, Kenya has announced its intention to close refugee camps in two areas - the Kakuma camps on the border with South Sudan and especially the Dadaab camps close to Somalia - and to send the refugees back to their countries of origin.
According to the statement issued by the NGOs: “The directive to close the camps violates the general principle of voluntary repatriation of refugees living in Kenya in a safe and dignified manner back to their countries of origin.”
Lucile Papon, head of Handicap International’s operations in the Horn of Africa, added: “For Handicap International, it is unacceptable that refugees, who include a very large number of vulnerable people, and among them people with disabilities, older people, isolated women and unaccompanied children, are subject to this sort of decision. The families living in the camp have fled civil war in Somalia, or insecurity in South Sudan, and it is inadmissible to force them to return to regions where their lives could be put in danger. What the refugees need most is help with the voluntary repatriation process. The crisis in Somalia shows no signs of ending, the Dadaab camp was opened more than 25 years ago, and the situation faced by the people living here has been totally forgotten.”
Handicap International began working with Somali refugees in Kenya in 1992, and in Kakuma in 2014, providing aid to the most vulnerable individuals. The organisation ensures all of these people have access to humanitarian assistance, particularly healthcare and rehabilitation services.