Nearly impossible to close Dadaab

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It has proven nearly impossible for the Kenyan government to quickly close the third largest refugee camp in the world. Meanwhile, fewer people have chosen to return to Somalia so far in 2018, compounding the issue.

“Many of the inhabitants fled Somalia because of political instability in the ’90s and have settled in Dadaab’s camps after decades in Kenya,” explains Neil Turner, our country director in Kenya and Tanzania. Some of Dabaab’s inhabitants were born in Kenya and have never set foot in the country their parents or grandparents fled.

In 2011, when a devastating drought and famine hit Somalia, 100,000 additional refugees arrived. Supplementary camps were set up to accommodate them. At that time, the Dadaab population soared to around 480,000 as it became the world’s largest refugee camp. Today, the Dadaab refugee complex consists of four refugee camps. The population is mostly Somalian, with a small number of refugees from Ethiopia, South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Kenyan government’s desire to close down Dadaab

In 2016, the Kenyan government announced in that it would close Dadaab. A year later, the high court in Kenya ruled that a closure would violate the country’s constitution. Turner explains that it was not necessarily the Kenyan government’s intention to close Dadaab, but to send a message “that the status quo from the Kenyan government’s perspective was not acceptable and that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), in particular, should do more.”

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