Kenya court quashes government order to close refugee camp

The world's largest refugee camp will remain open in Kenya.

The court's decision is a very positive step for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been stuck in limbo since the Kenyan government's announcement, MSF said.

Locator map of Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

"Hence the said decision is null and void", he said, adding that sending refugees home would be in breach of Kenya's obligations under global law.

In November, the closure was delayed by six months after calls by foreign nations to postpone it on humanitarian grounds.

The resolution to disband department of refugee affairs was also quashed.

Amnesty International welcomed the ruling, and said it affirmed Kenya's legal obligation to protect people who sought safety from harm and persecution.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and lobby group Kituo Cha Sheria challenged the decision in court, saying it was discriminatory and contrary to global law.

(There is little evidence.) The Somali-based Islamist group working to topple the Somali government has launched several attacks on Kenya over the last five years in retaliation for Kenya's support of African Union troops in Somalia.

At its peak, the Dadaab camp housed some 580,000 people, earning it the reputation as the world's largest refugee camp.

Kenya's interior ministry said Dadaab posed a security threat and that elements of the Somali militant group, al-Shabab, had infiltrated the camp and were plotting attacks on Kenyan soil. He also found that the move would flout Kenya's worldwide treaty obligations on refugees.

Kenya's high court announced the ruling Thursday.

"As a direct outcome of that directive, refugees could no longer be registered as the DRA failed to exist and the refugees at the camps faced an imminent danger of repatriation back to their countries of origin which are and were still unstable", Rucuiya Kimani, legal officer at Kituo Cha Sheria, told Humanosphere in an email comment.

The government argued keeping Dadaab up and running was a security issue.

The court also declared the repatriation of refugees unconstitutional and described it as discriminative.

The immediate effect of the ruling is a halt to an ongoing process of repatriating Somali refugees back to their war-torn country.

A new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, took office in Somalia on Wednesday.

  • Anthony Vega