Kenya on Thursday announced decision to close two refugee camps permanently by June 30, 2022.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta held talks with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Nairobi to discuss issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers in the region.

According to a statement issued by Kenya’s Ministry of Interior and Coordination, a joint team comprising officials from the government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will thus be formed to finalize and implement a roadmap on the next steps toward a humane management of refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab camps.

There are currently 433,765 refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps. “We are serious about completing the repatriation program which we started in 2016, in full view of our international obligations and our domestic responsibility.

We therefore reiterate our earlier position to close both Dadaab and Kakuma camps by 30th of June, 2022,” said Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and Coordination, in the statement issued in Nairobi.

Matiang’i said Kenya has been sheltering refugees for over 30 years and its capacity to host them longer under the minimum standards of humanitarian action has been overstretched, adding that the move to shut the camps is in the country’s public interest.

According to aid agencies, humanitarian aid and funds to support the lives of refugees have diminished since the COVID-19 hit, further worsening their plight.

Matiang’i said refugees from East African countries will be given the option of being issued a work permit for free so that they can integrate into Kenyan communities or return to their country of origin.

Both Kenya and UNHCR agreed that refugee camps are not a long-term solution to forced displacement and were committed to working together to find alternative solutions that are in line with the responsibility-sharing principles and goals of UNHCR’s Global Compact on Refugees.

Grandi said he believes that Kenyans will continue to show their generous hospitality toward refugees as they have done for nearly three decades, while discussions would continue on a strategy to find the most durable, appropriate and rights-based solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers residing in the two camps.

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