Nairobi - Kenya on Friday said Somali refugee camps were
being used as a safe haven for Islamist militants and said the time had come
for hundreds of thousands of refugees to go home.
The country's interior minister also said 15 immigration
officers had been fired in connection with an ongoing tightening of national
security after last month's attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, which
killed at least 67 people.
"For many years, Kenya has been host to the largest
refugee community in the world, we are host to almost 600 000 refugees. We have
welcomed, with open arms, refugees fleeing from insecurity in neighbouring
countries," Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters.
"Some of these refugees have abused our hospitality and
kindness to plan and launch terror attacks from the safety of the refugee
camps. This cannot and should not be allowed to continue," he added.
In the wake of the Westgate attack, several Kenyan officials
pointed the finger at Dadaab, a Somali refugee camp in the northeast and home to
over 400 000 people, as being a "training ground" for Somali
Lenku stopped short of supporting calls from some Kenyan
lawmakers that the camp be immediately closed, but said Somalia was "now
experiencing relative peace" and that Kenya was now "working closely
with the government of Somali and UNHCR to ensure that the repatriation process
is as smooth and humane as possible."
Lenku also said a purge was underway in the immigration
service, with 15 officers fired for issuing "Kenyan identity documents to
illegal immigrants thereby endangering national security".
"For the avoidance of doubt, let me be loud and clear,
the purge that has started today will extend to many other government
departments," he said.
"So all those who may have been part of the network
facilitating the issuance of Kenyan identification documents to illegal
immigrants who turn out to be criminals, I have only one message for you: your
days are clearly numbered," he warned.
The minister also vowed a complete audit of all identity
cards and passports issued in the last two years to "flush out those who
have been issued with illegal passports and other identification
Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab insurgents claimed
responsibility for the Westgate attack, saying it was in revenge for Kenya
military action against the group in southern Somalia.