17 June 2012

Somalia: Enduring Security Concerns At Dadaab Refugee Camp

Photo: UNICEF/Riccardo Gangale
Refugees, most of them women, young children and the elderly, arrive daily from Somalia, but Dadaab no longer offers a safe haven, experts say.

Nairobi — The United Nations High Commission for Refugees will mark this year's World Refugee Day next week amid security concerns at the Dadaab refugee complex inKenyawhich borders war-torn Somalia.

Government and UN officials said the insecurity fears is the biggest headache for the global body charged with the responsibility of looking after the welfare of refugees around the world.

UNHCR Spokesman in Kenya Emmanuel Nyabera said the deteriorating security situation over the last six months at the refugee camp, home to over 500,000 refugees, and during which relief workers were kidnapped and explosives detonated by suspected members of Somalia-based Islamic militia group, the Al- Shabaab, has slowed down the delivery of relief aid to the migrants and dampened the morale of workers.

"However, UNHCR has taken certain steps to arrest the situation by working closely with the Kenyan government by donating vehicles, communication equipment and paying incentives to the police and constructing police stations to enhance security," Nyabera told Xinhua in Nairobi on Thursday.

"Despite the setbacks, we are determined to alleviate the sufferings of the refugees, who like everyone, would like to be at home but cannot because of circumstances beyond their control."

The camp has been experiencing a spate of grenade attacks since October last year when Kenyan troops crossed intoSomaliain pursuit of the militants who also kidnapped some foreign relief workers attached there.

The UNHCR spokesman said more refugees are still anticipated into the camp because of the prevailing security situation in Somalia where African Union troops are engaged in a war to neutralize Al-Shabaab.

"Congestion is still a major challenge at the camp and we don't expect the number to come down any time soon because the security situation in Somalia is still far from ideal," Nyabera said.

"The camp was initially planned for only 90,000 refugees but the number has swelled to over 500,000 out of which 94 per cent are fromSomaliawith the rest coming from Ethiopia andEritrea."

Nyabera said among the improvements UNHCR has undertaken at Dadaab in preparation for more refugees are the expansion of the camp, opening of a new office in Fafi, an area located at the outskirts of the camp in order to cater for more refugees as well as improvement of sanitation and shelter.

He said the refugees should only move back when the conditions that made them flee their countries no longer exists.

The spokesman said more countries should consider receiving the refugees under the relocation program where they are transferred to third countries, especially the educated ones.

He said the day, which will be marked under the theme "One person forced to flee is too many" is to remind the whole world that in our midst, there are refugees who would like to be at home but cannot.

We remind the world that people are important.

"The day also reminds the world and particularly the refugees that they can still contribute positively despite their circumstance."

The East African nation will mark the day inNairobiwith song and dance by nine cultural performances from different nationalities and participation by government and UNHCR officials and representatives of various UNHCR supporting agencies.

There will also be cultural performances at the Dadaab andKakuma,Kenya's other refugee camp that houses over 94,000 refugees out of which 40,000 are from Somalia.

Nyabera attributed the cause of refugee problems in the world to conflict and presently climate change that has brought about famine and drought.

Source: Xinhua

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InFocus

Kenya: Security Concerns Plague Refugee Camp

Refugees, most of them women, young children and the elderly, arrive daily from Somalia, but Dadaab no longer offers a safe haven, experts say.

Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, hosts nearly 500,000 people with more arriving daily, raising experts' concerns about security and living conditions. Read more »