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Closing refugee camps might fuel hatred between Kenyans and Somalis

By Dorynne Shawanna | May 10th 2016 at 09:52:45 GMT +0300

The announcement last week by Kenya's Principal Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Dr.Karanja Kibicho that the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps would be closed has left many like me wondering. Will over 500,000 refugees remain homeless?

Dadaab is the only home these refugees have known for over 25 years. Dr. Kibicho cited insecurity, economy and environmental burdens as the reasons for the closure.

The Principal Secretary's statement that the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) will be disbanded is devastating to student refugees studying in Nairobi away from the camps.

If the DRA is disbanded, all refugee movement passes will be rendered invalid. This will in no doubt lead to harassment of refugee students studying in Nairobi as they will have no legal status.

Closing down the camps will mean untold suffering for people who through no fault of their own, now call Kenya home.

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There is little hope that more refugees from the camps could be accommodated in Somalia. The Somali government is unable to take care of the thousands of internally displaced people in the country.

The reasons that have been cited for the planned closure of the refugee camps are unfounded.

None of the terrorists who attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi or the Garissa University College were from Dadaab.

Not a single refugee was arraigned in court for either of these attacks. We Kenyans, including Dadaab refugees are all victims of Al-Shabaab.

Refugees add value to our economy. Kenyan families benefit from employment at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations that operate in the camps.

The host community benefits from refugee programs. Ironically, there is little evidence that the Garissa attack has increased xenophobic feelings between Christians and Muslims in Kenya.

Such a move by the government directed at innocent Somalis are certain to increase xenophobia between Kenyans and Somalis. This will create a situation that may eventually lead to war.

The government is acting out of desperation and it is highly unlikely to prevent another attack.

After offering hospitality for 25 years it is harsh for the Kenyan Government to abruptly shut down the refugee camps.

Many of the refugees believe Kenya is the only country they can live in as citizens or at least are recognized as refugees.

Kenya is the home of these refugees. There is no other home they will be going to as they already have one.

My appeal to the government is that the camps should not be closed as the refugees have nowhere else to go.

Refugees Interior Ministry
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