Photo taken on April 14, 2015 shows an aerial view of Dagahaley refugee camp, one of the camps that make up Dadaab in northeast Kenya. (Xinhua/Stephen Ingati)
MOGADISHU, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Somalia has warned of new security challenges if Kenya acts on its decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp.
Kenya earlier this week said it would repatriate all Somali refugees in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp in northeast Kenya, by May next year.
Set up over 20 years ago, Dadaab hosts nearly 330,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia.
In a statement issued on Friday, Somalia's Ministry of Home Affairs expressed reservations about Kenya's decision, warning the closure of Dadaab could pose new security challenges to the region, particularly to Somalia, where security remains fragile, mostly due to the activities of Islamist group Al-Shabaab.
On Wednesday, Kenya's Interior Principal Secretary, Karanja Kibicho, said: "We are assuring the world that there will be no Dadaab refugees by May (next year)."
Kibicho said the Dadaab camp had "a terror cell" -- a reference to its alleged links to Somalia-based Al-Shabaab -- and "thriving illicit trade".
On the same day, Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Nkaisserry, said the Kenyan government had set aside 10 million U.S. dollars for the repatriation of all Somali refugees in Dadaab.
Somali refugees from the Dadaab camp queue up for screening before boarding a plane at the Dadaab airstrip to return to their motherland, Nov. 2, 2015. (Xinhua/Stephen Ingati)
Kenya claims Al-Shabaab, which has staged a string of deadly attacks in Kenya in recent years, has hideouts in Dadaab.
It asked the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to close Dadaab last April, days after Al-Shabaab gunmen's massacre of 148 people at Kenya's Garissa University.
UNHCR has repeatedly urged Kenya not to close the camp.
A voluntary repatriation program for Somali refugees in Dadaab, under an agreement between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR, is under way, but Kenyan officials say it has been slow.
A statement from Somalia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged Kenya to abide by the pact that roots for dignified and safe repatriation of refugees.
"The tripartite agreement serves as a blue print to oversee dignified resettlement of refugees in their native country and abandoning it will be a moral and legal failing on the part of Kenya," said the statement.