United Nations chief commends Kenya hospitality toward refugees

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday commended Kenya’s hospitality toward foreign refugees, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here.

Ban expressed deep appreciation to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the people of Kenya for decades of generous hospitality to significant populations of asylum-seekers and refugees, Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.

Ban made the remarks in a phone call with Kenyatta, which came in the wake of the Kenyan government’s decision to close the Dadaab refugee camps.

“The secretary-general assured President Kenyatta that he appreciated the enormous task and responsibility involved in hosting large numbers of refugees, amidst daunting security challenges,” said the spokesman.

The UN chief urged Kenyatta to continue to use the Tripartite Agreement, signed in November 2013 with Somalia and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as a basis for the voluntary return of Somali refugees in safety and dignity.

“He expressed the UN support to Kenya, including the proposal by the (UN) high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, that a high-level bilateral review on the refugee situation in Kenya be conducted by the government of Kenya and UNHCR,” said the spokesman.

The secretary-general mentioned that UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Grandi would visit Kenya at the end of May, he said.

“They look forward to discussing this issue forward with the government of Kenya, and will underline the readiness of the UN to garner the support of the international community in addressing Kenya’s refugee challenges, with consideration for the host communities in Kenya as well as the sub-regional security concerns,” he added.

On May 11, the Kenyan government announced that it will repatriate all Somali refugees in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp in northeast Kenya, by May next year.

The first batch of the refugees would be returned by November.

Kenya’s announcement of the refugee camp closure prompted calls by the UNHCR against the decision.

Set up over 20 years ago, Dadaab hosts nearly 330,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia.

The voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in Dadaab, under an agreement signed between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR in November 2013, is underway but has been slow, Kenyan officials said.