As debates heat on about the looming closure of one of the largest refugee camp in the world-Dadaab, many people are torn between securing Kenya and keeping refugees.
Dadaab Refugees Complex was established in 1991 after the fall of Somalia government that led to civil war. As the war and instability continued, the refugee camp expanded to four camps; Dagahaley, Ifo, Ifo 2 and Hagadera with the number of refugees soaring to over 500,000.
Somalia has been fairly stable since 2010 but the number of refugees has not gone down as expected since many refugees prefer the camps than their homeland. It has been reported that many Somali refugees come in for registration in order to access ration and medical services while others come during the dry season in Somalia. Only a few refugees live in those camps throughout.
When United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and governments of Kenya and Somalia started a voluntary repatriation program in 2017, it was only done for a few months after it was discovered that people only registered for repatriation fee then sneaked back to the camps. The number of registered refugees stands at 235,269 – as of January 2018.
The movement of refugees between Somali and Kenya though cut-lines pose an economic threat to the region. Counterfeit goods are smuggled in from Somali to Dadaab and with a population of over half a million; business in refugees’ camp seems lucrative.
Three of the main terrorist activities in Keya were planned and facilitated through the camps. Westgate attack, Garissa University attack and the recent Dusit attack were all planned there. Weapons and explosives were smuggled into the complex from Alshabaab camps in Somalia while terrorists and sympathizers pose as refugees.
From a safety’s perspective, refugees’ camps are a threat to national security and it would help if the complex was closed. Also, it is good for the Somali country if the camps will be closed, a human resource of more than 500,000 people can not only boost their economy but also help in rebuilding a country ravaged by years of war.