The High Court in Kenya will hear a petition on Monday filed by two civil society organizations challenging the government’s decision to close down the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab and disband the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA).
Amnesty International is participating in the proceedings as an interested party and has filed submissions on Kenya’s obligations under international law to ensure the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.
The petition, filed by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Kituo Cha Sheria, seeks to have the government’s closure decisions declared unconstitutional.
“The closure of Dadaab would be a disaster for the tens of thousands of refugees still living there who have nowhere else to go. Their repatriation back to Somalia is not voluntary – they are being forced to return when the conditions that forced them to flee in the first place have not improved,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty International’s East Africa regional office.
“We hope that this court action will prompt the Kenyan authorities to reconsider their decision, and uphold their international obligations to protect refugees.”
The Kenyan government announced in May that it was disbanding the Department of Refugee Affairs with immediate effect, and would close the camp on November 30, repatriating the more than 260,000 Somali refugees there to Somalia despite the immense risks they would face.
Somalia has been ravaged by more than two decades of conflict. Fighting between government forces supported by African Union troops, and Al-Shabaab militants has resulted in gross human rights violations against civilians and devastated basic services and infrastructure.