The Kenyan government is delaying plans to close the world’s largest refugee camp.
The country’s interior minister Joseph Nkaissery told the Associated Press the deadline to shut down Dadaab and repatriate its inhabitants has been extended by six months. It was originally scheduled to close November 30.
The camp, located in the eastern part of Kenya, is home to more than 260,000 refugees, most of whom are Somalis, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
The nonprofit group Amnesty International, along with other humanitarian organizations, have called on the Kenyan government to halt its plans.
“The refugees are caught between a rock and a hard place,” Amnesty International’s Michelle Kagari said in a statement earlier this week. “
Kenyan government officials are telling them they must leave by the end of the month or they will be forced to leave without any assistance,” she said.
The AP reported that some of the refugees have returned to Somalia, but their lives are still at risk and they could be forced into extremist group al-Shabab.
Citing security reasons, Kenya announced earlier this year it would close the camp. The country has been attacked several times by al-Shabab, and government officials are concerned the camp is being used to recruit militants.
The Kenyan government told AP it is abiding by international laws in its process to dissolve the camp.
The Dadaab camp was once the home of newly elected first muslim Somali-American state-representative, Ilhan Omar.