CWS Calls on Government of Kenya to Reconsider Decision to Shutter Camps

May 25, 2016

New York – As a faith-based humanitarian agency supported by 37 Protestant and Orthodox member communions, Church World Service stands firm in its belief that the Government of Kenya should provide care and assistance to all individuals within its borders and not cause undue harm to thousands by abandoning its commitment to refugees.

As members of a faith-based humanitarian agency for the vulnerable and displaced, we lift our voices in solidarity with the humanitarian community and the thousands of refugees that have expressed great concern over the recent announcement by the Government of Kenya to close the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps.

“We are called by faith to welcome the sojourner and stand with the vulnerable. In a time of great need, with countries hosting more refugees than they have in generations, we must continue to stand strong in our commitment to shelter those being persecuted. As people of faith united by a common human bond, we must stand with our refugee brothers and sisters to find a solution for those seeking safety and shelter,” said CWS president and CEO, Rev. John L. McCullough.   

On May 6, 2016 the Government of Kenya released an announcement that detailed the decision to disband the Department of Refugee Affairs and expedite the repatriation of refugees seeking protection in Kenya.  This decision has the potential to cause harm and jeopardize the safety of as many as 600,000 individuals.

Present in Kenya since 1978, CWS has continually sought to prophetically voice the biblical commandment to care for the vulnerable in our world.  CWS commends the government and people of Kenya for having extended hospitality to refugees over many years. We believe that those within the borders of Kenya, including all refugees, should be treated with dignity and the intrinsic value imbued in all of humanity, as exemplified by the welcome that Kenya has historically provided to displaced persons from within the region.

These values of human rights, democracy, and the respect for fundamental freedoms are enshrined in Kenya’s founding documents and the hearts of the Kenyan people.  We urge the Government of Kenya to uphold its obligations under international and Kenyan law, and safeguard the wellbeing of all persons within its borders, including those seeking safety from violent conflict and other forms of persecution.  

“We must not make the mistake of believing our only option is to choose between the gospel call to welcome the stranger and the also recognizable need for security.  We can reject that false choice, and better understand that our true strength lies in upholding our time-honored commitments to human rights and respect for our neighbors,” stated Rev. John L McCullough.

For decades Kenya has hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees and sought to uphold its humanitarian obligation to refugees under international law.  We call upon the government to reconsider its recent decision and urge open conversation with partners in Kenya and the international community to ensure that refugees are not put at risk, but rather provided with the opportunity to find a lasting solution for their long-term success and safety.

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