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Economy

North Eastern leaders want Garissa refugee camp closed

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale addresses a Press conference April 6 in Nairobi where leaders from  North Eastern region called for the closure and relocation of refugee camps. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale (centre) addresses a Press conference April 6 in Nairobi where leaders from North Eastern region called for the closure and relocation of refugee camps. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU 

Leaders from north eastern Kenya on Monday called for the closure of the world’s largest refugee camp in Garissa as part of efforts to tame the Al-Shabaab menace.

The leaders, led by Garissa Township MP and Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale, said terrorists had turned Dadaab camp into grounds of plotting attacks.

“The camps have been the centres where the training, co-ordination and the assembly of terror networks is done. We want the refugees to be relocated, across the border,” Mr Duale told the Press in Nairobi.

The calls to shut down the refugee camp which hosts about 450,000 nationals from Somalia and South Sudan follow Thursday’s attack on Garissa University College in which 148 people were killed by Al-Shabaab militants.

The leaders pledged Sh15 million to the affected families.

Dadaab a nd Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya’s north currently host about 600, 000 immigrants largely from restive Somalia and South Sudan.

“They have been with us for the last 20 years. I think time has come when the national security of our people becomes paramount than the international obligations that we have.” said Mr Duale.

The National Treasury has already sought parliamentary approval to withdraw Sh477 million to repatriate the immigrants and cut their number by 75 per cent or 450, 000 amid security concerns.

The cash request is contained in a mini-budget submitted to Parliament in which the government is seeking approval to spend an extra Sh57 billion.

The United Nations demands that repatriation of refugees should be strictly voluntary. Kenya hosts about 450, 000 refugees in the Dadaab complex in the north eastern region, mostly Somalis who have fled conflict and recurrent drought in their country.

The Kakuma camp in Turkana holds 100, 000 people.

Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohamed previously said that the ceiling on refugee numbers was based on ability to accommodate the immigrants and was not a policy to refuse them entry.

Kenya last year signed a tripartite agreement with Somalia and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration for voluntary repatriation of refugees.

“The main challenge is that the majority of refugees in Kenya are from south and central Somalia. The volatile situation in these parts of the country has hindered the refugees from considering a return home,” UNHCR-Kenya spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera told the media in September.

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