By Jeanne Ongiyo
The Daadab refugee camp in Kenya has been home to more than 350,000 refugees from Somalia for over two decades now. The Government of Kenya has however deemed it fit to close down the refuge camp and have it completely evacuated in three months from April the year 2015. The proposed closure of the Daadab Refugee camp in Kenya has sparked off a series of debates both for and against the move. This is in the wake of the tragic Garissa Attack that claimed 148 lives while others remain both physically and psychologically injured. According to relevant sources, Somalia is currently in an unstable state in terms of security as well as grappling with a severe shortage of food within the country. Human rights organizations such as the UNHCR therefore advice the government of Kenya to reconsider their decision and continue hosting the thousands of innocent refugees who’s welfare is at stake.
Keeping the Daadab camp open might pose genuine threats to the country’s security in relation to the rising cases of terrorism but isn’t it unfair judging the Somali refugees when it has already been brought to the limelight that our own countrymen have also been recruited to join these militia groups? Some might argue that throughout the recent years Kenya has faced a number of insecurity threats that are believed to have been propagated by the Somali based militia group, Al-Shabaab, but shouldn’t we also blame the laxity of our security forces on the same?
Given that it is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, I believe that it will give Kenyans a sense of peace in their own territory. We do not have concrete facts that indeed the relocation of the refugees to their own country will mark an end to the attacks but we are however forced to believe that it is the solution to our current problem because of the influence from our able government. I also believe that the closure of the camp will also pave way for new developments in the country like the effective and speedy construction of the border wall between Kenya and Somalia. This way we will have defined our boundaries as independent states with all the citizens enclosed in their respective territories with no external interference.
The reasons against this move are however overwhelming. Rather than the closure of the camp and the mass evacuation having a negative impact on the subjects concerned, Kenya also risks breeching the Tripartite Agreement on the Voluntary Repatriation of the Somali citizens in Daadab refugee camp that was signed on 10th of November 2013. Through the signing of this treaty the Kenyan government committed itself to hosting and ensuring the safety of the refugees and that decision reached concerning the return of the refugees to their country will be voluntary and not forced. Now in normal circumstances no one would like to be branded “untrustworthy” therefore Kenya would have to fulfill its international obligations lest risk having sour relationships with other countries.
If Kenya pushes through with this move, the country risks deliberately exposing the Somali refugees to potential harm. This is because of the adequate knowledge we have of the current situation in Somalia yet we still insist on taking the refugees back to their war-torn state. This is also a breech of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14 (1) that states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Sources confirm that refugees stream into the country every other day without the necessary immigration documents and this has been attributed to the rising levels of corruption in the country. It therefore, seems like the mass evacuation of the refuges is a lost-battle as they will surely find their way back into Kenya in one way or another not unless serious reforms are carried out in the concerned immigration offices.
Whatever way we look at the matter, the closure of the Daadab refugee camp is sure to stir a whirlwind of problems in Kenya probably because the move has come at an inappropriate moment and the fact that the government already committed itself to hosting the refugees in its free will. We should however find intelligent ways of rooting out the concerned parties that are believed to be aligned to the terrorist militia group rather than persecuting an entire community which would otherwise be unsupportive of the terrorist attacks waged in the country. Let us all be wise in the decisions we make keeping in mind that all choices have consequences and the closure of the refugee camp in question especially at this time seems to cause more harm than good to the country.