GARISSA, Kenya, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) — Somali refugees on Friday welcomed Kenya’s court ruling, which declared the closure of the Dadaab refugee camps illegal.
The refugees who fled violence in Somalia to Dadaab refugee camps celebrated after Thursday’s court ruling which blocked the planned closure of the camps home to more than 300,000 aliens of Somali origin.
The refugees said that the ruling had brought a sigh of relief to them because the hurry in which the government was enforcing the closure of the camps was worrying since security in Somalia was still fragile.
“It’s a big sign or relief for many of us who had no idea where we would be taken to and how we were to start life afresh. The ruling came at the right time because the new Somalia president will have humble time to fix the runaway insecurity,” said Mariam Hassan, a refugee from Dagahaley.
High Court judge John Mativo ruled that the interior cabinet secretary and his principal secretary had acted beyond their powers by ordering the closure of the sprawling Dadaab complex.
Photo taken on May 8, 2015 shows an overlook of Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, currently houses some 350,000 people. For more than 20 years, it has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
The judge ruled that the government’s decision specifically targeting Somali refugees as an act of group persecution, and was illegal, discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.
Abdi Mohamed who has been living at the Ifo 2 camp for over ten years said that they had been receiving reports from those who had gone back home that things were not rosy there, creating panic among the refugees.
“As the day of the closure nears, majority of us were in a panic not knowing what awaits us back home. We welcome the courts ruling,” said Mohamed.
Garissa peace committee secretary Hassan Osman welcomed the judgment saying that it was timely noting that the judge “has re-affirmed Kenya’s commitment to the international convention agreement in which Kenya is signatory”.
“It is only when real stability and governance are attained in Somalia with complete social amenities for the refugees and their children that they be taken back,” Osman said.
Majority of the refugees who have voluntarily gone back home have been resettled in central and southern parts of Somalia in Doble, Badaab, Jilib and Kismayu.
The Kenyan government through its spokesman Eric Kiraithe said that while Kenya respects the rule of law, it will appeal against the ruling.
Kiraithe said the decision to close down the camp was irreversible, noting that the Garissa University attack that left over 147 people most of them students dead were planned, financed and executed from the refugee camps.
Meanwhile, international medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) which has long opposed closing the camp, welcomed the court ruling which also reinstated the Department of Refugee Affairs.
“This is a very positive step for the lives of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been stuck in limbo since the official announcement about the camp closure was made in May last year,” it said in a statement.
The medical charity called on Kenya to uphold the decision, saying any return of refugees to Somalia must be undertaken on a voluntary basis.
MSF has strongly opposed the plan to close the camps since day one, instead urging immediate consideration of alternative solutions to long-term encampment on such a large scale, including increased resettlement to third countries, smaller camps in Kenya or integration of refugees into Kenyan communities.