President Uhuru Kenyatta has met with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in Nairobi to discuss issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers in the region. The discussions also involved a briefing on the status of Kakuma and Dadaab refugees camps, following the UN High Commissioner’s meeting with Cabinet Secretaries Dr. Fred Matiang’i and Amb. Raychelle Omamo.

The meeting comes following the Government’s communicated intention to work toward the closure of the refugee camps in Kenya. A joint team comprising officials from the Government and the UN agency will be formed to finalize and implement plan on the next steps towards a humane management of refugees in both camps.

The plan, which was presented to the Government of Kenya in the beginning of April, includes voluntary return for refugees in safety, departures to third countries, and alternative stay options in Kenya for certain refugees from EAC countries.

“We are serious about completing the repatriation program which we started in 2016, in full view of our international obligations and our domestic responsibility. We therefore reiterate our earlier position to close both Dadaab and Kakuma camps by 30th of June, 2022,” said CS Fred Matiang’i.

The Government of Kenya and UNHCR also agreed that refugee camps are not a long term solution to forced displacement and are committed to working together to find alternative solutions in line with the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees.

“I believe that the Government and people of Kenya will continue to show their generous hospitality towards refugees as they have done for nearly three decades, while we carry on discussions on a strategy to find the most durable, appropriate and rights-based solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers residing in the refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma”, said the UN High Commissioner.

High Commissioner Grandi further welcomed the Government’s continued commitment to the GCR during this process. He added, “I am reassured by the government’s assurances that they will continue to provide protection and services for asylum-seekers and refugees in Kenya while various solutions are pursued.”

Digital verification of Kenyans currently also registered as refugees is set to begin soon. This will inform the issuance of appropriate documentation to Kenyan citizens and ensure their removal from the refugee database.

Kenya has shouldered the burden of sheltering refugees for almost three decades, and the swelling camps have overstretched their capacity to host populations. The government has also expressed grave concerns over the security of both Kenyans and refugees at the camps. There are currently 433,765 refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps.