Kenya: Court Blocks Closure of World’s Largest Refugee Camp

A government plan to close the world’s largest refugee camp has been blocked by Kenya’s highest court. It had been announced in May 2016 that the camp would be closed but in November, the camp’s closure was delayed by six months.

The decision was celebrated by the population of the camp, which carried signs, danced and sang on the streets. The news about the decision from the court quickly spread around the world’s largest refugee camp, which has a population of almost 330,000 people. Amnesty International also confirmed the news on its official Twitter account, saying that the court had said no to the closure of the camp. Amnesty International added on its tweet that now, durable solutions for refugees have to be found.

The Dadaab refugee camp has a high percentage of Somali refugees, who have escaped conflicts. Estimates say more than 90 percent of the camp’s population is Somali. The plan, announced last year, would repatriate the refugees to Somalia.

Kenya’s government has already said it will appeal the decision, with a government spokesman saying that Kenya will always come first and that the lives of Kenyans matter. The spokesman added that it is for this reason that they will be appealing the decision.

The plans to close the camp were criticized by humanitarian groups and it was later delayed by six months. Kenya explained at the time that the decision to close the camp was due to security fears. It was also mentioned that the government of Kenya had set aside $10 million to help fund the closure of the camp. The process to close the camp would be completed in November but the delay and decision from court will now keep the camp open.

The Dadaab refugee camp, which opened in 1992, saw many people arrive to the area shortly after its construction. The camp, which has a total of five camps inside, is where hundreds have been born in recent years. It is so big that it is often said to be Kenya’s third biggest city after Nairobi and Mombasa.

The government of Kenya maintains the camp must be closed and has already confirmed that it will appeal the decision announced just a few hours ago.