Kenya has told the United Nations that it must close a huge camp that is home to hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees within three months, following an attack on a Kenyan university that killed 148 people, carried out by a Somali-based militant group.
The Dadaab refugee camp, which is thought to be the largest such facility in the world, is located inside Kenya, near the border with Somalia.
"We have asked the UNHCR [United Nations refugee agency] to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves," Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto said in a statement Saturday.
"The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa," he said, referring to the university that was attacked on April 2 by the al-Shabaab group.
Raouf Mazou, country representative for UNHCR in Kenya, said that he heard about the government's intentions in the news, according to the BBC. Other UNHCR figures said that they were unable to comment on the situation, as they had received no formal request from Kenya's government to close the camp.
Kenya has in the past accused Islamist militants, including members of al-Shabaab, of hiding out in Dadaab camp, which it now wants the UN refugee agency to move across the border to inside Somalia, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
The Dadaab camp was established in 1991, to house refugees fleeing the conflict in Somalia, and some of its residents have been there for more than 20 years. Kenya's Ruto said that the facility is home to over 600,000 people, while the UN estimates that around 335,000 people live there, according to Deutsche Welle.
Macharia Munene, professor of international relations at a Kenyan university, told Reuters that moving hundreds of thousands of refugees across the border would be "a tall order".
Kenya has increasingly incurred the wrath of al-Sahbaab militants, after the country's military joined an African Union effort to smash the group in its home country. By some estimates, Al-Sahbaab has carried out 17 attacks in Kenya within the last three years, including a deadly 2013 attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, which killed at least 67 people.