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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
  • 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.

2013_04_19_President_Hassan_Sheik_Mohamud_c_(8667048035)
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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Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Terribly Neglected In COVID lockdown

COVID Lockdown leaves Afghan Refugees in Pakistan neglected and in despair

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Afghan refugee
Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Suffer under Coronavirus Lockdown as kids are seem playing outside a refugee camp. VOA
By Ayesha Tanzeem

Nearly 2.5 million Afghans live in Pakistan as either registered or undocumented refugees. Their lives have been upended by the coronavirus lockdown, but they seem to be getting little attention. Even though this might not hold much relevance in international news amid the COVID crisis, the lives of the refugees are in a terrible state.

This Afghan refugee settlement in Islamabad doesn’t have electricity or other basic facilities.

Most people here depend on day work for their living.  As the novel coronavirus spread and the country went into a partial lockdown, their livelihoods were nearly destroyed.

“These people hardly made $3-4 per day. Some of them picked up paper from the streets or trash for recycling, some worked as motorcycle mechanics. All of them are now sitting at home,” said Abdul Hameed, Afghan Refugee Representative.

An estimated 800 families, or around 5,000 individuals, live in this settlement. Many of them work at the nearby vegetable market.

“Ever since the coronavirus has spread, the authorities don’t allow us to gather inside the market. We wait along the roadside all day long, but no one gives us work,” said Abdul Khaliq, a day worker.

Refugees
Afghan refugees’s lives have been upended by the coronavirus lockdown. Pixabay

On Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees announced a cash assistance program for some of them. A two-month delay in making the aid available was blamed on a lack of resources.

“We realized that we would need money that we did not have. We had to go very quickly to donors to explain the level of intervention that we wanted to do. We needed to get confident that the donors were going to support that,” said Iain Hall, Deputy Representative of UNHCR Pakistan.

The U.N. agency acknowledges that the money, while helpful, is not enough to help everyone in need. In addition, half of the nearly three million Afghans living in Pakistan don’t have official refugee status and do not fall under the agency’s mandate.

Also Read: Punjab CM Directs Crack Down on Liquor Smuggling

Meanwhile, in this Islamabad settlement, people have no option but to wait. (VOA)

 

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Voodoo Even in U.S.A?

This religious practice has always been misunderstood

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Voodoo
This practice is a whole assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds and practices, including an elaborate system of folk medical practices.

By Kashish Rai

Voodoo is a sensationalized pop-culture caricature of voudon, an Afro-Caribbean religion that originated in Haiti, Western and Central Africa. Though, it’s followers can be found in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, the United States of America and elsewhere.

This practice is a whole assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds and practices, including an elaborate system of folk medical practices; a system of ethics transmitted across generations including proverbs, stories, songs and folklore. This practice is more than a belief.

More so, this religious practice has always been misunderstood.

Listen to this priestess named Miriam Chamani having an experience of 30 years. She has her Voodoo temple in New Orleans where people can learn more about faith.

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Witness one of Miriam’s sessions and the different ways she is helping her clients find their spiritual center.

 

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COVID-19 Spreads At an Alarming Rate in Africa: WHO

WHO Warns COVID-19 Accelerating in Africa

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WHO
The WHO has confirmed more than 8,300 cases of coronavirus in Africa, including nearly 400 deaths. Wikimedia Commons

By Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in rural areas of Africa and says urgent help is needed to strengthen the continent’s fragile health system.

The WHO has confirmed more than 8,300 cases of coronavirus in Africa, including nearly 400 deaths. That figure pales compared to the number of cases elsewhere. Latest global figures put the number of coronavirus cases at more than 1.6 million, with deaths now topping 100,000.

However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns of a spate of cases and deaths that will be hard to control unless African countries get international support to shore up their health care systems.

“We are now seeing clusters of cases and community spread in more than 16 countries,” he said. “We anticipate severe hardship for already overstretched health systems, particularly in rural areas, which normally lack the resources of those in cities.”

WHO
People wash hands in multiple basins installed by a pharmaceutical company to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Mushin Market in Lagos. VOA

On a slightly happier note, Tedros said the coronavirus pandemic appears to be slowing in some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, including Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

They are among a number of countries globally that have imposed tight restrictions, including self-isolation and social distancing, to stop transmission of the virus. Tedros noted those measures appear to be working.

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But he worries that some countries already are planning on lifting the restrictions.

“WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone,” he said. “At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”

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WHO chief Tedros says a number of factors must be in place before restrictions are lifted. For example, he said, countries must make sure transmission of the virus is controlled, medical services are available, outbreaks in special settings such as nursing homes are minimized, and importation risks are minimized.

Tedros said every person has a role to play in ending the pandemic. That means governments must ensure communities are fully aware and committed to lifting restrictions before they move ahead. (VOA)