The Kenyan government has announced plans to close its refugee camps and a U.S-based Christian humanitarian agency warns that the decision is deadly.
Nearly 600,000 refugees live in Kenya’s camps, with more than half in the sprawling Dadaab camp near the border with Somalia.
Kenya's Interior Ministry has said it would send all 330,000 refugees in Dadaab back to Somalia because the camp harbored terrorists, the Guardian reports.
The news not only comes as a shock to refugees but to World Help, a non-profit organization, which is now calling for an international intervention.
"It was with great surprise and concern that we learned of Kenya's decision to close its refugee camps, and in turn, to provide an unsure future to over 600,000 refugees, many of which are from war torn countries, like Somalia," Vernon Brewer, founding president of the Virginia-based World Help, said in a statement. "People who already live on the edge of death will most certainly die if the world doesn't respond immediately to this pending crisis."
Kenya has threatened to close down refugee camps in the past and used it for political advantage during elections, but this time authorities have followed through by closing down the Department of Refugee Affairs. They have even formed a task force to manage the closure of the camp in Dadaab.
"This is unbelievable," Abdullahi Aden Hassan told The Guardian. The father of nine was one of the first ot arrive to the camp in 1992. He now serves as the spokesman of the refugees in the camp. "Everyone is just stunned and really sad. There is still war going on in so many parts of Somalia. It is simply too dangerous to return at this time."
The government claims that the Somalia-based terror group al Shabbab is using the refugee camps for terror attacks, including the attack at the Westgate Mall in September 2013.
However Human Rights Watch senior refugee researcher Gerry Simpson disagrees.
"There's not a single shred of evidence that any registered Somali refugees in Kenya have been behind any attacks in Kenya," he was quoted as saying. "So far, not a single Somalia refugee has been charged with or convicted of any such offense. In the case of the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, and the Garissa attack in northeast Kenya last year, Somali nationals have been charged with those offenses, but they are known to have come in directly from Somalia, and were not registered refugees."
Brewer said it is not the organizations responsibility to dabble into the political realities but he does ask the nation to reconsider their decision.
"Perhaps Kenyan officials would not feel compelled to take such drastic action if the international community were to provide more support to humanitarian and security services?," he asked.
"The world has to awaken to the fact that we now have more refugees than any time in history, and that these vulnerable people, especially women and children, are the responsibility of us all."