- Mr Lenku was speaking when he toured Dadaab Refugee Camp, where he met senior UNHCR officials, local leaders and a delegation from Somalia.
Kenya Saturday stepped up its push to have half a million Somali refugees return home after Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku ordered all camps closed.
Mr Lenku said the government was not looking back on refugee repatriation and ordered all refugee camps shut.
He also directed all agencies supporting refugee operations in Kenya to move those programmes to safer areas in Somalia, saying the repatriation of refugees had begun and that it was time to say goodbye.
“All the camps should be closed and the debate on whether or not it is appropriate has been passed by time,” he said.
Mr Lenku was speaking when he toured Dadaab Refugee Camp, where he met senior UNHCR officials, local leaders and a delegation from Somalia.
He dismissed concerns by some refugees that their country was still unstable, saying KDForces, Amisom, and other humanitarian agencies were active on the ground.
“We urge the agencies to move those programmes to safer areas in Somalia. Permanent structures should also be scaled down,” he said.
In a tripartite agreement signed between the governments of Kenya and Somalia and the UN refugee agencies two weeks ago, it was agreed that the return of the refugees would be on a voluntary basis. Mr Lenku was accompanied by Senator Yusuf Haji, UNHCR country director Elike Segbor, Garissa Governor Nadhif Jama and area MPs, among other officials. His directive, however, is likely to create friction with the international community including Britain, which had offered to support voluntary repatriation.
By ZADOCK ANGIRA firstname.lastname@example.org and JOHN NJAGI email@example.com