UNHCR urges Kenya to reconsider decision to end refugee hosting

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has appealed to Kenyan authorities to back down on their decision to end refugee hosting in the country.

Authorities in Kenya have announced their resolve to end the hosting of refugees, citing “economic, security and environmental burdens”. A statement issued by the Ministry of Interior said that the Government had disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and was working on a mechanism for the closure of Kenya’s refugee camps – a move that could affect as many as 600,000 lives, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency.

“For almost a quarter of a century Kenya has played a vital role in East Africa and the Horn of Africa in providing asylum to people forced to flee persecution and war. The safety of hundreds of thousands of Somalis, South Sudanese and others has hinged on Kenya’s generosity and its willingness to be a leading beacon in the region for international protection,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

The Refugee Agency says it was in touch with the Kenyan Government to “fully understand the implications of its statement”, adding that Kenya has played an extraordinary role over many years as one of the world’s major refugee hosting nations.

“In today’s global context of some 60 million people forcibly displaced, it is more important than ever that international asylum obligations prevail and are properly supported,” UNHCR stated.

The refugee agency notes that because of how devastating the consequences of a premature ending of refugee hosting would have for hundreds of thousands of people, it is calling on the Government of Kenya to reconsider its decision and avoid taking any action that might be at odds with its international obligations towards people needing sanctuary from danger and persecution.

Kenyan has been a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of refugees mostly from neighbouring war-torn countries and those affected by famine.