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Published: Fri, February 10, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Blow to gov't as court says no to Dadaab Refugee camp closure

Blow to gov't as court says no to Dadaab Refugee camp closure

The court ruling keeps the camp open and brings more certainty for refugees afraid of being repatriated to Somalia, where large parts of the south are controlled by the Shabab and a starvation is looming.

Kenya's highest court has blocked a government plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp because the move was ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Human rights groups welcomed the decision to overturn the closure, but the government said it would appeal the decision.

Kenya had vowed to close the world's biggest refugee camp within 6 months and send hundreds of thousands of Somalis back to their war-torn homeland or on to other countries, a plan decried by aid and human rights groups as unsafe, illegal and impractical.

The camp was set-up in 1991 to house families fleeing conflict in Somalia where some inhabitants have been living there for more than 20 years.The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and lobby group Kituo Cha Sheria challenged the decision in court, saying it was discriminating and contrary to global law.

The government unilaterally chose to close the camp in May previous year, saying it was a terrorist training ground for Shabaab Islamist militants.

Refugees' affairs Mativo directed the State to restore the status quo with regard to administration of refugees' affairs within the country, reinstate and operationalise the Department of Refugees Affairs with immediate effect.

"This ruling reaffirms Kenya's constitutional and worldwide legal obligation to protect people who seek safety from harm and persecution", Wanyeki wrote.

In the case, Kituo Cha Sheria, Legal Advice Centre and Amnesty International sued CS Nkaissery seeking to stop the directive to close the world's largest refugee camp, Daadab.

The attacks include a September 2013 rampage at the Westgate mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people, and a 2015 massacre at Garissa University in northeast Kenya that killed 148 people, mostly students.

Kenya's interior ministry said Dadaab posed a security threat and that elements of the Somali militant group, al-Shabab, had infiltrated the camp and were plotting attacks on Kenyan soil.

Other rights groups claim that the ruling will give greater security to Somali refugees and prevent further violation of their human rights.

Early this morning, Somali friends in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp that's home to more than 300,000 people, were celebrating the selection of Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" as the new president of Somalia. "This decision is yet another blight on refugee protection globally, where again we see total failure in providing safe haven for people in danger".

The government has 30 days to appeal, and says it plans to do so.

The camp is situated in a harsh location in remote northern Kenya, with temperatures as high as 118 degrees in the dry season and floods in the wet season.

The court decision came a day after a former Somali prime minister and dual USA citizen, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, was announced the victor of the country's long-delayed presidential elections.

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