The government has announced it will spend Sh1 billion to repatriate refugees, as the country enhances its fight against terrorism.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said on Wednesday during a press briefing in Nairobi that the camps had become hideouts for terrorists.
He said the October 2015 kidnapping of teacher Judy Mutua, among other terror attacks, was planned at Dadaab.
“Somalia is now safe and ready to receive her people,” said Maj-Gen Nkaissery.
Last week, Kenya announced its decision to close the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps.
However, Kakuma is spared as there are no serious security challenges there.
In 2013 the governments of Kenya and Somalia together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a tripartite agreement aimed at encouraging Somali refugees to return home voluntarily.
Only a few thousand have taken up the offer, however, leaving Kenya frustrated.
Kenya also said it would no longer accept refugees from Somalia.
“The Government of the Republic of Kenya, having taken into consideration its national security
interests, has decided that hosting of refugees has to come to an end,” said a statement signed by Interior Ministry Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
Under the directive, newly arrived asylum seekers will not automatically receive refugee status, and the government will step up efforts to have those already living in the country removed.
Kenya hosts around 550,000 refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, many of whom have fled decades of war in neighbouring Somalia.
The United Nations and human rights groups have urged Kenya to rescind its decision to shut down the refugee camps.
The UNHCR said the move could affect as many as 600,000 lives, and that as a result it viewed the new developments “with profound concerns”.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights also opposed the planned repatriation of refugees, saying it contravenes Kenya’s human rights obligations.
The United States also asked Kenya to reconsider its decision, saying the Barack Obama administration “remains committed to working with Kenya and international partners to find durable solutions for refugees”.