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Kenya extends deadline for Dadaab camp closure by 6 months


11-24-2016 05:25 BJT

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Kenya has extended the deadline for the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, which houses more than 260,000 Somalis, by six months, the interior minister said Wednesday.

Photo taken on May 8, 2015 shows an overlook of Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. Dadaab, the world

Photo taken on May 8, 2015 shows an overlook of Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)

Joseph Nkaissery told journalists in the capital Nairobi that the volatile security situation in Somalia had made it difficult for Kenya to meet the deadline.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi had also requested Kenya to give more time for the repatriation of the Somali refugees in Dadaab, citing a delicate situation in Somalia and other factors, Nkaissery said.

"However, ongoing voluntary repatriation will continue uninterrupted," Nkaissery said.

Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, was set up over 20 years ago to house Somalis fleeing civil conflict.

Kenya announced in May that it would close Dadaab and repatriate all the Somalis living in it by November this year, citing security concerns. Repatriation has since been accelerated.

Nkaissery said the government was working together with the UNHCR and the Somali government to conduct a program to help facilitate smooth repatriation during the extended period.

According to the official, 262,000 Somali refugees remain in the camp while 16,000 have been repatriated in the last six months.

Nkaissery said all the Somali refugees in Dadaab would be moved out in a humane manner.

He denied reports by some human rights groups and aid agencies that refugees were being forced back to Somalia.

"Kenya is committed to upholding international law in the repatriation process," he said, adding that 10 million U.S. dollars would be used in the repatriation.

Some Somali refugees in Dadaab will be moved to third countries, while all non-Somali refugees will be relocated to other UNHCR camps, according to the official.

An environmental rehabilitation program will be carried out in Dadaab after the camp is closed next year, he added.

An estimated 1.1 million people are internally displaced in Somalia due to some two decades of civil conflict.

The Kenyan government claims members of Somalia-based Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab hide in Dadaab. Al-Shabaab has carried out a series of bloody attacks in Kenya in the past few years.

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