Kenya says it will begin closing largest refugee camp in July

Kenya will begin closing Africa’s largest refugee camp on July 1, an Interior Ministry official said, shrugging off international criticism of the move that will affect its mainly Somali population.

The “operation” at Dadaab, in the East African nation’s northeast, will “go on over several months,” Amos Gathecha, the ministry’s security and operations secretary, said Thursday at a meeting of stakeholders in Kenya’s tourism industry in the port city of Mombasa.

“We are aware of the international outcry regarding the closure,” he said. “We are not going back on closing Daadab.” Authorities will monitor “how it will work as far as securing our country goes.”

Kenya, which hosts as many as 600,000 refugees mainly from neighboring Somalia, say it’s closing its two biggest refugee camps, citing costs to its economy and security. The Dadaab complex in northern Kenya was set up to deal with an influx of people fleeing conflict in Somalia following the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. It hosts about 333,000 people, according to the United Nations.