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Somali President asks Kenya to accommodate refugees, if the World’s Largest Refugee Camp ‘Dadaab’ shuts down

The Kenyan Government has already dissolved the Department of Refugee Affairs

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Dadaab
A recent family arrived in Dadaab. Image source: Wikipedia
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  • Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp with over 3,00,000 inhabitants
  • Kenya plans to shut down this camp citing economic and security concerns
  • This move is widely criticized by human rights groups

Dadaab is a town situated in eastern Kenya which serves as a group of refugee camps which collectively form the largest in the world. Among the many camps that this town harbors,  Dagahaley, Hagadera and Ifo are the oldest (built in 1992) and most prominent. As a second wave of refugees arrived owing to large droughts in East Africa, camps of Ifo II and Kambioos were constructed which held a capacity of around 130,000 refugees. In total, Dadaab houses 300,000 refugees, most of whom had fled Somalia in the past due to unstable political conditions and constant civil wars.

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After the mass massacre in Garissa University in April 2015, the deputy president of Kenya had announced the closure of Dadaab refugee camps. In a country that was gripped with fears of a plummeting economy and dwindling natural resources, this attack by the militant group Al-Shabab which took lives of 148 university students shook the whole country with grief and sorrow.

Government officials suspected that this terrorist activity originated in those Somali refugee camps, and hence must be shut down to diminish the Kenyans’ security concerns. The Kenyan government, which had announced it would ensure this camp shut down within three months,  softened its stance on this matter later, as the camp remains functional to this day.

Although seemingly justified, this move was widely criticized by human rights groups. Human Rights Watch, in its statement, said there was “no credible evidence” that terrorist groups had evolved from refugee settlements.

Dadaab
Refugee Shelters in Dadaab. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director in East Africa, told The Independent, “This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable and will put thousands of lives at risk.

“It could lead to the involuntary return of thousands of refugees to Somalia and other countries of origin, where their lives may still be in danger. This would be in violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.”

Despite all of these criticisms, Kenya reiterated in April this year that it had serious plans to shut down Dabaab, as problems for the country had only worsened since last year. Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, became the first Somali president to visit the refugee town this week. Somalia will be one of the most affected countries if Dabaab indeed settles down in the near future.

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Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

In his speech, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud ensured the refugees he would make arrangements for basic services such as food and shelter upon their return home to Somalia. It is however, unclear who would fund these arrangements.

Kenyan Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery confirmed his government’s intention to shut down the 25-year-old complex, disregarding serious requests from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to maintain its existence.

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“Kenya is committed to close the camp,” Nkaissery said.  “It is a decision we have already reached and we will jointly collaborate with the Somali government and the UNHCR on your safe return”, addressing the refugees. Supporting its decision, Kenya has already dissolved the Department of Refugee Affairs.

Kenya, however would not impose involuntary exit of refugees from its borders. Even as it plans to shut down Dadaab, Kenya is committed to the principles that its constitution is based on. Hence, government officials have said that in close cooperation with UN agencies and the Somali government, they would facilitate a safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries.

-by Saurabh Bodas (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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Somalia Calls To Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.

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Somalia
FILE - A badge reads "The power of labor aginst FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

A spate of deaths of young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) has renewed calls for Somalia to outlaw the tradition.

Four girls, ages 10 and 11, from central and northern Somalia have died in the last three months after having been cut, and seven others are in hospitals, activists said.

“More and more cases of girls who have died or end up seriously injured after FGM are coming out,” said Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, a local women’s group in the east African country.

“These cases confirm what we have been saying all along — that FGM kills and that we need a law to stop it,” Mohamed said. “The harm it causes is blatantly clear.”

 

Somalia
A Somali woman walks through a camp of people displaced from their homes elsewhere in the country by the drought, shortly after dawn in Qardho, Somalia, March 9, 2017. VOA

 

An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, the United Nations says.

One of 28 African countries where the tradition is endemic, Somalia has the world’s highest rates of FGM — 98 percent of women between 15 and 49 have undergone the ritual.

Somalia’s constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing voters who view FGM as a part of their tradition.

Government and hospital officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths or hospital admissions.

The charity Save the Children said it rescued seven girls — aged between 5 and 8 years old — on Sunday from Somalia’s northern Puntland state. The girls had undergone FGM and were bleeding excessively; they are now receiving hospital treatment.

Somalia
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“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many more cases go unreported,” said Timothy Bishop, country director of Save the Children in Somalia.

Campaigners said Suheyra Qorane Farah, 10, from Puntland died Sunday after contracting tetanus, having undergone FGM on Aug. 29.

Two sisters, Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame, age 10 and 11, from the same region bled to death Sept. 11 after visiting a cutter across the border in neighboring Ethiopia.

The death of Deeqa Nuur, 10, in July from severe bleeding following FGM prompted the attorney general to initiate Somalia’s first prosecution against FGM — using existing laws — but the investigation has faced challenges.

Also Read: Every Three Minutes a Teenage Girl is Infected by HIV- UNICEF

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.

“A specific law can express punishments and specify stiffer penalties, ensure that all accomplices are held accountable, and gives guidance on the kind of evidence needed to prove the crime,” she said. (VOA)