GENEVA/NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 9, 2017—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes today's ruling by the Kenyan High Court, which declared the closure of the Dadaab refugee camps illegal and reinstated Kenya's Department of Refugee Affairs.
More than 250,000 refugees currently live in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps, which were formed as people fled conflict and hunger in Somalia 25 years ago. The Kenyan government's announcement in May 2016 that it would close the camps caused widespread fear that refugees would be forcibly returned to Somalia, despite the considerable dangers.
In a survey conducted by MSF last year, 86 percent of residents in one of Dadaab's camps said they would not willingly return to Somalia, and 83 percent said they considered it "very unsafe." Many cited a lack of peace and essential services, including health care.
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. MSF urges the government to uphold the decision, emphasizing that any return of refugees to Somalia must be done on a voluntary basis.
When the plan was announced last year, MSF strongly opposed the involuntary return of refugees to Somalia, 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.
Dadaab is the largest refugee camp complex in the world, with residents who have lived there for decades. MSF first started working in Dadaab in 1992 and is currently the only provider of medical care in Dagahaley, one of the Dadaab camps. MSF is working in the 100-bed hospital in Dagahaley camp and at two health posts, providing outpatient and mental health consultations, surgery, and antenatal, HIV and tuberculosis care.