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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kenyan court blocks gov't bid to close Dadaab refugee camp

NAIROBI, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's High Court on Thursday quashed the government's unilateral decision to shut down Dadaab refugee camp which mainly hosts Somalis, terming the move as unconstitutional.

High Court Justice John Mativo termed the directive by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho as "arbitrary, null and void" in the ruling.

Mativo said the government's orders to repatriate Somali refugees living in the world's largest refugee camp were discriminatory and amounted to collective punishment. He also described the orders as excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate.

"The government violated the law. Its decision ought to be examined. It was a drastic measure that should have been taken within the confines of the law," the judge ruled.

Mativo said there was no proof of the people's involvement in crime, or a single arrest or conviction that has been sighted as evidence of risk at the camp, or the presence of Al-Shabaab members.

Mativo further directed the government to adopt mechanisms that would ensure the department of refugees is functioning properly and avoid collective discrimination of refugees.

The High Court ruling came in response to a petition by two Kenyan human rights organizations, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Kituo Cha Sheria, which challenged the constitutionality of the government's directive to shut down Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, and the Department of Refugee Affairs.

The camp was initially due to be closed on November 30, 2016, but the government announced a six-month delay on "humanitarian grounds." Dadaab's closure would effectively have left more than 300,000 Somali refugees with nowhere else to go.

The East African nation has also cited the influence of terror group Al-Shabaab as among the risks of keeping the camps open.

It was not yet clear when the closures would have begun, but the government has already disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs (that the court quashed on Thursday), which worked with humanitarian organizations for the welfare of the refugees.


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