In response to today’s court ruling blocking the Kenyan government’s unilateral decision to shut Dadaab refugee camp, Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“Today is a historic day for more than a quarter of a million refugees who were at risk of being forcefully returned to Somalia, where they would have been at serious risk of human rights abuses. This ruling reaffirms Kenya’s constitutional and international legal obligation to protect people who seek safety from harm and persecution.
“Stopping the imminent closure of Dadaab refugee camp is an essential first step in respecting and protecting refugee rights in Kenya. Now Kenya and the international community must work towards finding alternative solutions for refugees including local integration options.”
In his ruling, Justice JM Mativo said the government’s orders were discriminatory and amounted to collective punishment. He also described the orders as excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate. 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, supported by Amnesty International, 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, but the government announced a six-month delay on “humanitarian grounds.” Dadaab’s closure would effectively have left more than 260,000 Somali refugees with nowhere else to go. Most of those who spoke to Amnesty International for a report published in November 2016 accused Kenyan government officials of coercing them to return to Somalia against their will.