Kenya’s high court on Thursday suspended the government move to shut down two camps, Kakuma and Dadaab, that hold hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn neighboring countries.
Justice Antony Mrima issued the temporary order, which will run for 30 days, after former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira filed a legal challenge seeking to block closure of the two camps.
Gichira, who is lawyer, argues that the directive to close the two camps violates Kenya’s constitution as well as international laws and treaties regarding protection of refugee rights.
“The threatened closure of camps and forced repatriation offends all those international legal instruments protecting refugees as well as those prohibiting torture, cruelty, degrading and inhuman treatment,” Gichira said in his court filing.
Kenya’s interior ministry had given the U.N. refugee agency 14 days, which ended Wednesday, to come up with a plan for closing the camps, saying that “there is no room for further negotiations.”
The Dadaab camp in Kenya’s east holds more than 200,000 refugees mainly from Somalia, which has not known peace since the 1991 ouster of long-time dictator Siad Barre. The Kakuma camp in northern Kenya hosts nearly 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority from South Sudan’s civil war.
The case will be initially heard on April 13.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) promptly responded and warned of a catastrophe if refugees are ejected from the Dadaab and Kakuma camps which have a population of 218,873 and 196,666, respectively.
The East African country revealed plans to shut the Dadaab camp in November 2016, citing a security threat to Kenyans.
Kenya alleged that al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked Garissa University, killing more than 140 students in 2015, had been facilitated by sympathizers from the camp, citing it as the main reason for the closure.
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