The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asked Kenya on Monday to reconsider its decision to stop hosting 600,000 refugees, warning that such a move may violate the country's international obligations.
Kenya's interior minister announced Friday that the government had dissolved its refugee department and would shut down the world's largest refugee camp, in Dadaab, as well as a camp in Kakuma.
The ministry cited economic and security burdens, as well as the toll that the settlements takes on the environment.
"It is with profound concern that UNHCR takes note of this announcement," the agency based in Geneva said.
The safety of hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Somalia, South Sudan and other countries had hinged on Kenya's generosity, the UNHCR pointed out.
The policy shift could have "potentially devastating consequences" and may run counter to Kenya's duty to protect people fleeing from danger and persecution, the agency added in a written statement.
Kenya has been worried about the activities of the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has targeted the nation since 2011, when Kenyan troops entered Somalia to help fight the group. It has linked al-Shabaab with Kakuma and Dadaab, where 380,000 Somalis live.