The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said he understood Kenya’s security concerns and urged tightened security at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp in northeastern Kenya.
Guterres made the call after a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, which marks the start of talks over the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees.
“I thank Kenya for its open door policy to people running away from danger. We also agree that there is no government that will minimize the security of its citizens,” Guterres said, adding the process, however, has to be done in an organized manner.
Guterres said his agency had identified eight districts in Somalia where the refugees could be resettled.
Dadaab refugee camp currently houses some 350,000 people. For more than 20 years, it has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts.
The government asked the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to close the camp after an attack by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab gunmen on Kenya’s Garissa University in April that left 148 people dead.
Kenyatta said “the sense of urgency to repatriate the refugees has been necessitated by the security threats facing Kenyans,” adding he wants the process to be smooth to avoid creating more problems.
“We want the world to understand that the security of our people and their property cannot be relegated to the bottom of our priority list,” the president said.
Guterres called for deployment of special police units at the camp to reduce crime and prevent terror network.
“From experience, when General Service Unit (GSU) officers were deployed to the camps in the past, security improved and we request for the deployment of sufficient numbers of security personnel, especially the GSU, to Dadaab,” he said.
The UNHCR head is set to travel to Somalia after his Kenya visit. Enditem