Is It Really Ideal To Close Down The World’s Largest Refugee Camp?

Last week the Kenyan government announced its plans to shut down all refugee settlement camps, including Dadaab, for national security reasons. Regarded as the world?s largest refugee complex in Northeastern Kenya, Dadaab is home to more than 320,000 individuals, the majority of whom are externally displaced populations from across the Kenya-Somalia border.

Somali refugee

The complex was established by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the early nineties, following the Somali civil war that subsequently led to the fall of Mogadishu. What was originally intended to host an estimated 90,000 individuals was expanded to accommodate thousands more who have established permanent residency at the site for multiple generations.

A move to shut down the camp may be likened to shutting down the city of Honolulu, Hawaii in the United States. A multi-disciplinary task force has been formed to accomplish this project which is expected to cost about $US 10 million to implement, over a decision which has been described as ?reckless? and ?negligent?.

And UNHCR has closely supported Kenya over the years in its efforts to host refugees, the agency has expressed its concerns over this decision and has urged the government to reconsider the decision.

?In light of this, and because of the potentially devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people that premature ending of refugee hosting would have, UNHCR is calling on the Government of Kenya to reconsider its decision and to avoid taking any action that might be at odds with its international obligations towards people needing sanctuary from danger and persecution,? the UN refugee agency disclosed in a statement.

The possible closure of the camp, which houses its own makeshift neighborhoods, complete with restaurants, schools and salons, would ultimately mean the involuntary migration of thousands of refugees back to Somalia and other countries of origin, where they would have to re-start their lives in unstable and possibly volatile conditions.

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