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Dadaab refugees threatened by backlash to Garissa massacre

17 April 2015

CLOSING the world's largest refugee camp would have "extreme" humanitarian consequences, the UN said on Tuesday, as it urged the Kenyan authorities to reconsider a decision taken in the wake of the worst terrorist attack there in 15 years.

Kenya's Deputy President, William Ruto, said on Saturday that it had asked the UNHCR to relocate the 600,000 Somali refugees living in Dadaab camp within three months, or "we will relocate them ourselves."

The camp, established in 1991, is about an hour's drive from Garissa, where this month 148 people at a university were killed by Somali gunmen (News, 10 April). "The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa," Mr Ruto said.

Urging the authorities to reconsider, on Tuesday a UNHCR spokeswoman, Karin de Gruijl, said that forcing the refugees to return would have severe practical consequences, and would be a breach of Kenya's international obligations. "UNHCR, too, has been appalled by the Garissa attack," she said.

"We reiterate our condolences to the families of the victims." The agency would work closely with the Kenyan government to "strengthen law enforcement" at the camp, and to step up voluntary repatriation, she said.

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