UPDATE 13. April 2021: Closing Camps Won’t Solve Kenya’s Refugee Problem + U.N. to boost security for LGBT+ refugees after deadly arson attack at Kenya camp - but in reality UNHCR is doing nothing.
UPDATE 12. April 2021: Lockdown and Curfew for five counties extended until 29th May 2021.
UPDATE 09. April 2021: UNHCR Urges New Resettlement Plan for Refugees in Kenyan Camps
UPDATE 08. April 2021: Give us timeframe on closure of camps, Kenya tells UNHCR - UNHCR only plans to relocate 10,000 to Somalia, 5,000 to Ethiopia, 5,000 to South Sudan, and 3,500 to Burundi by end of 2021.
UPDATE 07. April 2021: Kenya, UN and aid agencies disagree over closing refugee camps
UPDATE 26. March 2021: BREAKING: President Uhuru Kenyatta locks down five countries due to high rise of covid19 cases in the country - Refugees left stranded.
UPDATE 25. March 2021: Kenya Orders Shutdown of Refugee Camps Housing over 400,000 People
UPDATE 24. March 2021: Kenya: UNHCR responds to Matiang’i ultimatum on closure of refugee camps + Closing camps will greatly impact refugees' protection - UNHCR
ICYMI: UN appeals for $266M to end food cuts to millions of refugees in Eastern Africa + KNOWN SINCE A YEAR: Refugees in Africa face hunger as COVID-19 worsens food shortages, agencies warn + REMEMBER: Why Kenya Announced An Unrealistic But Alarming Plan To Rid The Country Of Refugees
PROLOGUE: Governments and UNHCR proof to be increasingly impotent to deliver durable, humane solutions - be it in Bangladesh, in Greece, in Turkey, in Egypt, in DRC, in Niger, South Africa or Kenya. The media reports on the closure of the camps in Kenya caused panic in the two largest refugee camps Kakuma and Dadaab, since they spoke of the closure of the facilities and refugee settlements within two weeks, while in reality the 14-day deadline was given by the Interior Ministry to UNHCR to present a plan for the orderly closure of the camps. A plan for a durable solution is indeed long overdue. However, such should not add additional distress to the already difficult lives of destitute refugees, left starving with reduced rations in the harsh lands of Northern Kenya. Meanwhile UNHCR in Nairobi pays a "Diplomatic Police" unit and brutal security guards from at least controversial G4S to protect them from desperate refugees at their closed offices and instigate to arrest genuine and registered refugees as well as asylum seekers, who want to ask UNHCR just the one simple question: WHY ARE YOU NOT HELPING? The arrested refugees have no means to legally challenge these atrocities, since even the UNHCR funding for legal aid to refugees via the organizaton Kituo cha Sharia reportedly has dried up. But even under the earlier arrangement refugees could not get real legal help in Kenya, if they don't have money to pay lawyers. In the face of all these tribulations any further suicide at the doorsteps of UNHCR and panic in the camps must be averted by all means.
In Kakuma, from where refugees are flown out to third countries of asylum, a racket is investigated, which allegedly only tested families, who have been granted asylum elsewhere, as 'COVID-19-NEGATIVE', if they paid bribes, while others already form a huge backlog of refugees not being allowed to travel to their new destinations. IOM (International Organization for Migration) - the UN's refugee and migrant travel agency - is in charge of the COVID testing and is using the opportunity to also introduce new and unapproved tests in the exercise. "IOM must be told that refugees are no guinea-pigs," a family father of four told a gathering of refugees in Dadaab, who are all healthy, but likewise had several and contradicting COVID test-results holding them back. "In addition, refugees demand that an independent oversight is installed to countercheck the numerous forced vaccinations refugees are given before they can travel. They have no means to get an independent opinion and are forced to give their uninformed consent, since otherwise they will not fly to freedom. This amounts at present to forced inoculations with experimental drugs - like the mRNA 'vaccines' - constituting a violation of the Nuremberg Code."
UNHCR given 14-day ultimatum to close Dadaab, Kakuma camps
|Refugees in Kenya shall be ripped off even this meagre existance, if some government officials get it their way.|
By Citizen Reporter - 24 . March 2021
- In May 2016, Kenya announced its plans to close the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, saying it had been infiltrated by terrorist cells.
- In August that year, some refugees who had left Dadaab were stranded near the Somali border after authorities in Jubaland refused to receive them.
- In November 2016, the Government bowed to international pressure and said it would delay the closure of the camps.
- In February 2017, a Kenyan court said it would be unconstitutional for the government to close a sprawling refugee camp.
- Two years later, Kenya ordered the closure of Dadaab refugee camp by the middle of the year.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i has issued the UN refugee agency with a 14-day ultimatum on closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
Dr. Matiang’i told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that there is no room for further negotiations.
This is the second attempt by the Kenyan Government to have the camps closed and refugees repatriated.
In May 2016, Kenya announced its plans to close the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, saying it had been infiltrated by terrorist cells.
However, rights organisations alleged that Kenya has harassed Somali refugees to return home when it is not safe to do so.
At the time, Kenya was hosting around 600,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, including almost 350,000 in Dadaab.
Jubaland turns refugees away
In August that year, some refugees who had left Dadaab were stranded near the Somali border after authorities in Jubaland refused to receive them, saying they could not provide enough assistance, local media reported.
In November 2016, the Government bowed to international pressure and said it would delay the closure of the camps to give residents more time to find new homes.
In February 2017, a Kenyan court said it would be unconstitutional for the government to close a sprawling refugee camp housing mostly people who have fled unrest in Somalia. The government said it would appeal the ruling.
In March 2019, the Kenyan Government renewed its quest to have Daadab refugee camp closed and gave the refugee agency until the middle of the year to do so.
The Government wrote to UNHCR on February 12, 2019 about plans to close Dadaab within six months and asked the agency ‘to expedite relocation of the refugees and asylum-seekers residing therein’.
“UNHCR is aware of the renewed call by the Government of Kenya to close Dadaab and is working with the government to continue to implement long-term and sustainable solutions for over 210,000 refugees living in the camp,” said the UNHCR in a statement emailed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“These include voluntary returns, third country solutions such as resettlement, sponsorships, family reunifications and labor migration, as well as relocations in Kenya, including at Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei Settlement.”
According to the U.N. document, UNHCR has helped almost 83,000 people return to Somalia voluntarily since 2015.
But the number of returnees dropped last year to about 7,500 compared to about 35,500 in 2017 and 34,000 in 2016.
In April 2020, Kenya banned movement in and out of two huge refugee camps as part of containment measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus among vulnerable communities.
At the time, the population of refugees in Daadab and Kakuma was 217,000 and 190,000 respectively.
The directive followed warnings from health experts and humanitarian groups that an outbreak of COVID-19 in densely populated refugee camps would be catastrophic.
Dadaab was established by the United Nations in 1991, and has since mushroomed, with more refugees streaming in, uprooted by drought and famine as well as on-going insecurity. Many have lived there for years.
Additional report from Reuters and Al Jazeera
Nota Bene: The camps, Dadaab and Kakuma, are in the northern part of the country and are home to more than 500,000 people mainly from Somalia and South Sudan as well as Ethiopia. On Tuesday, Kenyan authorities told the UNCHR that Somali refugees would be sent to the border with Somalia if the camps were not closed, the Interior Ministry confirmed to Reuters, according to VOA.
|Do you really think refugees are treated humanely in Kenya? Without the very serious risks for their lives in their home countries they would never stay here.|
Somali authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kenya’s move comes as relations with Somalia worsen, after Mogadishu cut diplomatic ties with Nairobi last December, accusing it of interfering in its internal affairs.
The two nations are also facing off at the International Court of Justice over a maritime boundary dispute, although Kenya has boycotted the hearing of the case.
Kenya’s interior ministry, however, told Reuters the move to close the camps was not related to diplomatic difficulties with Somalia.
The 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.
The African Great Lakes Region (DRCongo, Rwanda, Burundi) as well as the East and Horn of Africa continue to suffer from conflict and displacement.
Kenya is now the second biggest refugee-hosting country in Africa after Ethiopia. Kenya hosts refugees mainly from the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa region. While most people fleeing from conflict in South Sudan arrive in Kakuma in northern Kenya, most Somali refugees flee to Dadaab, located in Garissa County in the former North Eastern Province of Kenya.
EMPATHY IS KEY
Thomas Buergenthal describes the plight of refugees today
Judge Thomas Buergenthal was one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. He immigrated to the United States at the age of 17. Judge Buergenthal has devoted his life to international and human rights law. A former chairman of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience, he is currently the Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at the George Washington University Law School and served for a decade as the American judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He served as a judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and of the Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank, and was the first US national to be elected to the UN Human Rights Committee, a member of the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador, and vice chairman of the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland. With a unique perspective shaped by his experiences as a Holocaust survivor and international jurist, Judge Buergenthal has taught at several leading law schools and written more than a dozen books and numerous articles on international law and human rights.
I am struck when I see refugees on the road, part of a conflict whether it be in part of the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, and I immediately think back on my own experience, I was a child at the time and I think of the children. And of course to me it just gets me to the position where I feel we can't allow this thing to happen, we have to do something. And I would think that even if you haven't had the experience that I've had that many people, who have any sort of empathy, when they see what is happening, whether it be Darfur or Rwanda or Cambodia for example, that they will react in a similar way and that it will stimulate them. Whether in the world we live in with all of its complications, whether that conscience, to use [Raphael] Lemkin's term, that comes out of that experience, whether it can do very much in terms of preventing it is another matter. What it certainly should be able to do is to get people to recognize that what is going on should not be going on. What they can do about it is another matter and it is very very difficult.
Kenya wants United Nations agency to shut down refugee camps
By TOM ODULA Associated Press - 24. March 2021
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya says it has given the United Nations 14 days to come up with a plan to close refugee camps in the country that host hundreds of thousands from war-torn neighboring nations.
Internal Security Minister Fred Matiangi said there is no room for further negotiations, in a tweet issued Wednesday by his ministry. The ministry did not give further details.
The U.N. High Commission for Refugees said Wednesday it had been informed by the Kenyan authorities of their intention to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps within a short timeframe. It said the decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.N. refugee agency urged the Kenyan government to "allow suitable and sustainable solutions to be found and that those who continue to need protection are able to receive it."
Kenya has said the Dadaab refugee camp near the Somalia border is a source of insecurity. Some officials have argued that it has been used as a recruiting ground for the jihadist rebels of al-Shabab and a base for launching violent attacks inside Kenya, but officials have not provided conclusive proof.
A Kenyan court in 2017 blocked the closure of Dadaab camp, saying it was not safe for refugees to return to Somalia.
Kenya has been saying for years that it would like to close Daadab, near Kenya's eastern border with Somalia and which hosts nearly 200,000 mostly Somali refugees.
The Kenyan government's latest demand is seen as retaliation against Somalia for insisting on pursuing a case at the International Court of Justice over a disputed maritime border between the two countries. Kenya wants the case settled out of court.
Kakuma camp in Kenya's northeast has nearly 200,000 refugees, mostly South Sudanese nationals escaping civil war.
By REUTERS/AJ - 24 Mar 2021
Kenya has ordered the closure of two sprawling camps that host hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Somalia and gave the UN refugee agency – UNHCR – two weeks to present a plan to do so.
The Dadaab and the Kakuma refugee camps in northern Kenya host more than 410,000 people, a small proportion of whom are from South Sudan.
Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s interior minister, has given the UNHCR 14 days to draw up a plan for the closure of both camps, the ministry said in a tweet, adding that there was no room for further talks on the issue.
UNHCR urged Kenya to ensure that those who need protection continue to get it, and pledged to keep engaging in a dialogue.
“The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the UNHCR said in a statement.
The Daily Nation newspaper reported that Kenyan authorities informed UNCHR on Tuesday that it would take the refugees to the border with Somalia if the camps were not closed.
Somali authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Kenyan government’s attempt to close Dadaab in 2016 came on the back of intelligence reports showing two attacks on Kenyan targets in 2013 and 2015 took place with the involvement of elements in the camps.
The plan was blocked by the high court, which called the move unconstitutional.
The camp was established three decades ago and was once the world’s largest refugee camp, which at its peak hosted over half a million people fleeing violence and drought in Somalia.
Kakuma, located in the northwest, is home to more than 190,000 refugees, some drawn from neighbouring South Sudan.
Kenya’s move comes as relations with Somalia worsen following Mogadishu cutting diplomatic ties with Nairobi last December, accusing it of interfering in its internal affairs.
Kenya’s interior ministry told Reuters news agency the move to close the camps was not related to diplomatic difficulties with Somalia.
|Unbearable - especially for refugee women - is the life in the Kenyan detention centres dubbed refugee camps, but if they are sent back to e.g. Somalia they will face enslavement or death.|
31 Dec 2014: Police abuse running rampant in Dadaab camp
U.N. to boost security for LGBT+ refugees after deadly arson attack at Kenya camp
By Nita Bhalla - 13. April 2021
NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Security will be beefed up for LGBT+ people living in a Kenyan refugee camp, a U.N. official said on Tuesday, following the death of a gay man who was set alight in the latest attack targeting sexual minorities at the Kakuma camp.
The 32-year-old Ugandan died on Monday in a Nairobi hospital where he and another LGBT+ refugee were being treated for burns sustained in the March 15 attack. The other man is expected to be discharged soon, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
Witnesses told the Thomson Reuters Foundation a petrol bomb was thrown near the man as he and the other refugee slept on a mattress in the open air.
The UNHCR, which runs the Kakuma camp in northwestern Kenya, said Kenyan police were still investigating the incident. There have been no arrests so far.
“We will do our best to support the police investigation. Additional security is being deployed. Psychological support is available and our teams are on the ground and are available to help in this difficult moment,” said Dana Hughes, UNHCR’s regional spokesperson.
Members of the LGBT+ community among the refugees in Kenya have been protesting many times about the harssment and even assassinations they face. Demanded and mandatory protection is in reality not coming forward from UNHCR. "The only active officer in UNHCR is the press-officer, who bribes the newspapers," stated one of the protesters, and added: "Just words, but never help is coming forward from UNHCR." - Foto EFE
“Measures to address specific protection concerns are being strengthened. This includes, when necessary, providing shelter in another part of the camps on a case-by-case basis and after assessments by our colleagues.”
The UNHCR said in a statement the victim had “previous health issues”, without giving details about the cause of death.
There are an estimated 300 LGBT+ refugees - from countries such as Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo - living in Kakuma, a sprawling camp home to more than 160,000 people.
Over the last three years, LGBT+ refugees have repeatedly complained about their security and have staged demonstrations, giving examples of gay men being slashed with knives, lesbians pelted with rocks, and their shelters being set on fire.
Last month, LGBT+ refugees called on the UNHCR to move them to a safer area citing at least five attacks on them from other refugees and host communities since the beginning of the year, including an arson attack in which three men were hospitalised.
The UNHCR says relocations can only happen on an individual basis, but the refugees want to be relocated as a group for safety reasons.
Gilbert Kagarura, spokesman for the camp’s “Block 13” area where the victim lived, said the UNHCR had been given repeated warnings about the threats faced by LGBT+ refugees.
“It wasn’t as though there were no warning signs. For years, we have been complaining about the threats we face and asking to be moved elsewhere yet nothing has happened,” Kagarura said.
“The death of our friend has made our reality all the more clearer. But we wonder how many more of us it will take to die before someone sees our lives as worthy.”
Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Editing by Helen Popper.
LOCKDOWN & CURFEW EXTENDED
12. April 2021
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has announced the end date for the curfew issued in five Counties including Nairobi, Machakos, Nakuru, Kajiado and Kiambu.
In a revised gazette notice dated April 12, 2021, the CS indicated that the order would go on until May 29, 2021.
"This order shall apply during the hours of darkness between eight o’clock in the evening and four o’clock in the morning with effect from the 29th March, 2021 and shall remain in effect for a period of sixty days thereof," reads an excerpt of the statement.
UNHCR Urges New Resettlement Plan for Refugees in Kenyan Camp
By Ignacio Ramonet - 09. April 2021
UNCHR conducts training for COVID-19 vaccinations in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Refugees detained at the camp are in the hands of the UN for the forced vaccinations.| Photo: Twitter/ @UNHCR_Kenya
The Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, located in northern Kenya, host some 430,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of more than 15 nationalities.
The United Nations refugee agency said Friday it has shared with Kenya a proposed set of sustainable and rights-based measures aimed at identifying solutions for refugees living in camps in Kenya.
The Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, located in northern Kenya, host some 430,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of more than 15 nationalities.
Fathiaa Abdalla, the UNHCR representative in Kenya, said the UN agency has proposed enhanced voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity, while taking into account the movement restrictions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have heard the concerns expressed by the government of Kenya and hope that these measures will be a significant step forward in accelerating sustainable solutions for all those concerned," she said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
The UNHCR supports speeding up the issuing of national identity cards to more than 11,000 Kenyans who have previously been identified as registered in the refugee database, and continuation of the vetting process for others in similar circumstances, Abdalla said.
UNHCR STATEMENT:— UNHCR KENYA (@UNHCR_Kenya) April 9, 2021
UNHCR recognizes the tremendous generosity that the people and Government of Kenya have demonstrated towards refugees for many decades and the need to resolve situations of longstanding displacement.: https://t.co/5lyVRnKTR0
She said the UNHCR recognizes the tremendous generosity that the people and Kenyan government have demonstrated towards refugees for many decades and the need to resolve situations of longstanding displacement.
The UNHCR has suggested the provision of alternative-stay arrangements to refugees from the East African Community (EAC), which groups Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
This would represent a major opportunity for refugees to become self-reliant and contribute to the local economy, the UNHCR said.
The UN agency also proposed resettlement to third countries for a small number of refugees who are not able to return home and face protection risks.
"We believe that through joint renewed actions we can put in place measures that respect refugee rights and lead to sustainable solutions," Abdalla said. "We look forward to continuing our dialogue and collaboration with the Kenyan authorities and partners on this important matter."
On March 23, the Kenyan government announced its intention to close the two major camps, creating uncertainty for more than 400,000 refugees.
Nairobi told the UNHCR said that there is no room for further negotiations on the closure of Dadaab refugee camp, which mainly hosts refugees from Somalia, and Kakuma camp, which hosts refugees from South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda.
However, the High Court on Thursday temporarily blocked the closure of two refugee camps for 30 days pending the hearing and determination of a petition filed by a local politician.
Kenya, which hosted protracted negotiations that culminated in the formation of the transitional federal government of Somalia, says the refugee situation continues to pose security threats to Nairobi and the region, in addition to humanitarian challenges.
Give us timeframe on closure of camps, Kenya tells UNHCR
UNHCR only plans to relocate 10,000 to Somalia, 5,000 to Ethiopia, 5,000 to South Sudan, and 3,500 to Burundi by end of 2021.
By CYRUS OMBATI - 08. April 2021
•Among others, UNHCR agreed to repatriate up to 100,000 refugees to other countries like USA, Canada, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
•Kenya has now called for another meeting with UNHCR next week to deliberate on the way forward.
Interior CS Fred Matiangi .
Kenya wants UNHCR to give a timeframe for closing Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps.
The demands came after the refugee agency responded to the ultimatum for a roadmap on the closure of the camps over, among other issues, insecurity and environmental degradation.
UNHCR agreed to repatriate up to 100,000 refugees to other countries like including USA, Canada, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Kenya has now called for another meeting with UNHCR next week to deliberate on the way forward.
“We disagree on the timeframe because it is open ended. We need a definite date on when these transfer will start and end,” said an official aware of the talks.
In the response to Kenya, demands the refugee agency said it is hosting 512,494 refugees and asylum seekers with 224,462 at Dadaab and 206,458 at Kakuma and Kalobeyei settlement and 81,574 in urban areas.
“The need to ensure additional support for sustainable reintegration in areas of return as well as transitional support for the relocation of non-Somali populations including Kenyans registered as refugees from Dadaab camp is another essential aspect,” said part of the response.
|Refugee Camps in Kenya are more like detention centres than places to live and develop lives.|
The agency was responding to a two-week ultimatum given by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on March 23 that they come up with a roadmap to close the camps.
The agency says in its response delivered on April 7 it has to verify the identity of the refugees, an issue Kenya says has been done and is done every after three years in the past 30 years the camps have been here.
It also wants continuation of the deregistration process of Kenyans registered as refugees and review of existing individual return package.
UNHCR has proposed community based reintegration support in priority return areas in the main countries of origin, alternative solutions for refugees and asylum seekers from the East African Community (EAC) and solutions for refugees with protection concerns in third countries and in Kenya.
“Key elements of the roadmap include gradual consolidation of Dadaab, closure of camps within the complex and environmental restoration and conversion of Kakuma camps into an integrated settlement of EAC citizens willing to reside there under alternative stay arrangement and integration together with Kalobeyei into new Kakuma municipality in line with plan of Turkana County.”
UNHCR plans to relocate 10,000 to Somalia, 5,000 to Ethiopia, 5,000 to South Sudan, and 3,500 to Burundi by end of 2021.
Some 25,000 refugees will acquire residency status in EAC and settle 5,000 others in the US. However, due to lengthy security screening, no Somali departures are foreseen for 2021, the response says.
In Somalia and South Sudan, UNHCR will need increased presence in areas of return and expansion of facilities to host the staff and refugees.
This can be done in 2022.
Amnesty International Kenya said Tuesday the ultimatum has recreated the fear that the principle of non-refoulment may be violated for the refugees currently hosted by Kenya.
The agency said here is no evidence of an escalated security risk arising from the camps in April 2021.
Two days after issuing the ultimatum, Matiang’i held a meeting with 25 development partners mission in Nairobi on refugee rights consideration.
The partners included the UN, World Bank and IMF representatives respectively. The meeting was held virtually. Foreign affairs CS Raychell Omamo attended the meeting. They also met diplomats from the EAC over the same. The CS and his team delivered their message on plans to close the camps citing insecurity.
UNHCR, then urged the Kenya government to ensure that any decisions on the Dadaab and Kakuma camps allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found.
Kenya is citing national security threats posed by some of the refugees, including past terror attacks that have been linked to accomplices of the Somali-based Al-Shabaab militant group within the camps.
Apart from the terror issue, the government team said Kenya’s efforts to have the have war-torn areas where Al-Shabaab operates in Somalia to be labeled as terrorist organizations have been hindered continuously.
Kenya, UN and aid agencies disagree over closing refugee camps
UNHCR delivered 'roadmap' on closure demanded by Kenya but two sides remain far apart
By CYRUS OMBATI - 07. April 2021
- UNHCR, AI, others say conditions not suitable for return to violence-stricken homelands.
- Kenya on March 23 gave UNHCR two weeks to plan the return of refugees to Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, DRC and other countries.
NO MORE REFUGE: Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Turkana county. Image: FILE:
Though closure of he Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps has again been ordered by Kenya, UNHCR, rights and aid agencies still say the time is not right.
On Tuesday, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, delivered a comprehensive roadmap on closure demanded by Kenya. Wednesday was the deadline after a two-week ultimatum.
Kenya says the camps in Turkana and Garissa are sources of insecurity and some terrorist attacks have been planned there. It wants them closed as soon as possible.
The refugee agency said there is no evidence of an escalated security risk arising from the camps in April this year.
The UN and agencies also say the time isn't right to move the refugees and UNHCR requests more time and resources.
The camps host more than 500,000 refugees, including more than 274,000 from Somalia.
Kenya should use its seat on the UN Security Council to press for more resources for refugees and host countries, Amnesty International and others argue.
A source aware of the UNHCR response said it was comprehensive and agreed with seven of 10 points raised by Kenya.
The three points of disagreement are at issue. The exact three are not known, except they probably deal with terrorism and need for closure as soon as possible.
Government officials led by Interior CS Fred Matiang'i are studying the response. The source said the CS may address the media or issue a statement this week.
"It's good progress so far," an official said.
Amnesty International Kenya said on Tuesday Kenya's ultimatum for a roadmap created fear the principle of non-refoulement may be violated.
Non-refoulement is a principle of international law forbidding a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country where they would likely be in danger of persecution or harm.
Refugees are from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC and other countries where violence is rife.
Closing Dadaab and Kakuma camps without an orderly approach respecting rights invites a humanitarian disaster within the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amnesty International said in a statement the circumstances in the region have not improved significantly for most refugees to safely return to their countries of origin .
Other countries have not come forward to resettle them.
“Conflict in Somalia and Ethiopia, pre and post-election violence in Uganda and Tanzania as well as the persecution of LGBTI+ communities in Uganda and elsewhere make voluntary, safe and dignified return untenable for most refugees," AI said.
“Closure of Dadaab and Kakuma camps without an orderly approach that respects refugee rights invites a humanitarian disaster within the global Covid-19 pandemic," AI executive director Irungu Houghton said in a statement.
He said the international community through inadequate funding undermines Kenya’s capacity to provide safety and sanctuary.
Houghton told wealthier countries led by the new US administration to fairly share responsibility by expanding opportunities for third-country resettlement.
He called for mass Covid-19 vaccination programmes for refugees and encouraged communities to host them.
“Rather than persecuting refugees, Kenya can use its influence at the UN Security Council to demand the international community shoulder its fair share of the responsibility to protect refugees,” Houghton said.
He said instead of a rushed decampment programme, Kenya and UNHCR must consider regional and international best practices.
“Long-term camps deprive thousands of men, women and children of their dignity and reduce them to dependents of humanitarian aid," the AI executive director said.
Houghton said local integration and self-reliance policies and programmes are needed to deliver the governments’ Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
“The Government of Kenya must not abandon its history as a sanctuary nation in the middle of a pandemic or a diplomatic dispute with the Government of Somalia," he said.
Two days after issuing the ultimatum, Matiang’i met virtually with 25 development partners mission in Nairobi on the issues of camp closure and refugee rights.
They included the UN, the World Bank and IMF. Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo attended.
Matiang'i and his team delivered their message on closing the camps, camps, citing insecurity and attacks linked to accomplices of al Shabaab.
UNHCR urged Kenya to ensure any decisions on closure allows for suitable and sustainable solutions.
The complex situation has left the government torn between its domestic interests and international obligations, some of which are binding and can attract consequences if violated.
“UNHCR is concerned about the impact of this decision on protection of refugees, including during the Covid-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with Kenyan authorities," a UNHCR statement read.
The refugee agency promised to support Kenya in hosting the refugees and finding solutions that are orderly, sustainable and respect refugee rights,” it said.
Kenya is engaged in a maritime boundary dispute with Somalia over areas believed to be rich in oil and gas. Kenya has accused the International Court of Justice of failure to honour its request to have the new team of lawyers prepare sufficiently.
(Edited by V. Graham)
No word on refugee camps' closure ultimatum as Amnesty says move will cause disaster
Amnesty said here is no evidence of an escalated security risk arising from the camps in April 2021.
By CYRUS OMBATI - 06. April 2021
- Closure without an orderly approach that respects refugee rights invites a humanitarian disaster within the global Covid-19 pandemic
- International community continues to undermine Kenya’s capacity to provide safety and sanctuary for refugees by inadequate humanitarian funding.
Life as a refugee in the harsh environment of Northern Kenya is no Safari Tourism - (Picture Amnesty)
Thursday marks the end of a two-week ultimatum that Kenya issued to the UNHCR to come up with a roadmap on the closure of two refugee camps.
Officials say there has been little discussions between the parties involved since the ultimatum was issued and that they expect an extension from the government side.
This is due to among others restrictions issued by the government over Covid-19 pandemic.
“You know the these restrictions affected many operations in government including us,” said an official who asked not to be named.
Kenya had on March 23 told UNHCR to announce a plan for the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugees' camp within two weeks.
Amnesty International Kenya said the ultimatum has recreated the fear that the principle of non-refoulement may be violated for the 500,000 refugees currently hosted by Kenya.
The agency said here is no evidence of an escalated security risk arising from the camps in April 2021.
Furthermore, AI added, the circumstances within the region has not improved significantly for most refugees to safely return to their countries of origin nor have other countries come forward to resettle them.
“Conflict in Somalia and Ethiopia, pre and post-election violence in Uganda and Tanzania as well as the persecution of LGBTI+ communities in Uganda and elsewhere makes voluntary return safe and dignified untenable for most refugees,” said AI Kenya Executive Director Irũngũ Houghton.
“Closure of Dadaab and Kakuma camps without an orderly approach that respects refugee rights invites a humanitarian disaster within the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added the international community continues to undermine Kenya’s capacity to provide safety and sanctuary for refugees by inadequate humanitarian funding.
He told wealthier countries led by the new US administration to also fairly share responsibility by expanding adequate opportunities for third-country resettlement, mass Covid-19 vaccination programs and encourage calls by communities to host refugees.
“Rather than persecuting refugees, the Government of Kenya can use its influence at the UN Security Council to demand that the international community shoulder its fair share of the responsibility to protect refugees,” said Houghton.
He added instead of a rushed decampment program, Kenya and UNHCR must also consider reviewing the encampment approaching line with regional and international best practices.
“Long-term camps deprive thousands of men, women and children of their dignity and reduce them to dependents of humanitarian aid.”
Houghton said local integration and self-reliance policies and programs are needed now to deliver the Governments’ Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
“The Government of Kenya must not abandon its history as a sanctuary nation in the middle of a pandemic or a diplomatic dispute with the Government of Somalia. Instead, it must use its international leadership on the UN Security Council to advocate for more resources and opportunities for both host nations and refugees,” he added.
Two days after issuing the ultimatum, interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i held a meeting with 25 development partners mission in Nairobi on refugee rights consideration.
The partners included the UN, World Bank and IMF representatives respectively. The meeting was held virtually. Foreign affairs CS Raychell Omamo attended the meeting. The CS and his team delivered their message on plans to close the camps citing insecurity.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency then, urged the Kenya government to ensure that any decisions on the Dadaab and Kakuma camps allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found.
Kenya is citing national security threats posed by some of the refugees, including past terror attacks that have been linked to accomplices of the Somali-based Al-Shabaab militant group within the camps.
The complex situation has left the government torn between its domestic duties and international obligations, some of which are binding and can attract consequences.
However, the UN agency is now calling for consideration of those who live in the camps for need of protection and pledge to keep engaging in a dialogue.
“UNHCR is concerned about the impact this decision would have on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue,” a statement from the agency said in part.
The refugee agency promised to support Kenya in its efforts of hosting the refugees.
“UNHCR stands ready to support the Government of Kenya in continuing and further strengthening the work that is ongoing to find solutions that are orderly, sustainable and respect refugee rights,” the statement added.
The statement added UNHCR has been informed by the Kenyan authorities of their intention to close Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps within a short time frame.
Apart from the terror issue, the government team said Kenya’s efforts to have the have war-torn areas where Al Shabaab operates in Somalia to be labeled as terrorist organizations have been hindered continuously.
It comes at a time when there is an ongoing maritime case with Somalia which Kenya has accused the International Court of Justice of failure to honour its request to have the new team of lawyers prepare sufficiently for the case.
The number of refugees from Somalia is over 274,000 which is the largest compared to those from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda amongst other neighbouring countries.
President Uhuru Kenyatta locks down five countries due to high rise of covid19 cases in the country - refugfees left stranded
26. March 2021
Genuine refugees once again find themselves stranded between a rock and a hard place. UNHCR instigated police-swoops against refugees - often women with small children who are left helpless on the streets - had them arrested and prosecuted (without any legal aid from UNHCR). Since UNHCR offices or the office of the Refugee Affairs Secretariate now continue to NOT work properly more and more refugees will just be criminalized by the injust system implemented by those, who now again will just lazily work from "homeoffice" but not attend to the needs of the refugee families in Nairobi.
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The Interior Ministry of Kenya announced Wednesday it would shut down two camps populated by over 400,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia and Sudan.
Nairobi gave the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) two weeks to create a “road map” for evacuating the refugees.
According to Voice of America News (VOA) on Wednesday, the conversation between the Kenyan Interior Ministry and UNHCR grew quite heated, as the Kenyans threatened to send hundreds of thousands of people from the Dadaab and Kakuma camps to the Somali border unless the U.N. quickly made plans to take them elsewhere:
UNHCR said it would continue the dialogue and had asked Kenya to guarantee protection for the refugees.
In a statement, the agency said, “The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic.”
Fred Matiang’i, the interior minister who issued the ultimatum, said there was “no room for further negotiations,” according to the ministry on Twitter.
Kenya has long seen the camps as a security threat and so do U.N. officials and many of the residents. Kidnappings and bombings have been perpetrated at the overcrowded camps and incoming waves of Somalis have unleashed epidemics of diseases like cholera. Sexual abuse, including rape and female genital mutilation, is rampant in the camps, while armed gangs have targeted both refugees and aid workers. Violence has broken out between local tribes and refugees.
Terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Somalia’s al-Shabaab recruit from the displaced populations, including the foot soldiers used for bloody terrorist attacks like the Westgate Mall siege in 2013 and the Garissa University slaughter in 2015.
The Kenyan government tried to close the camps in 2015 and 2016 on national security grounds, claiming Dadaab in particular had “lost its humanitarian nature and become a haven for terrorism and other illegal activities.”
International human rights groups and the United Nations criticized the move initially and the Kenyan high court ultimately halted it in 2017, ruling the shutdown order “specifically targeted Somali refugees” in an act of “group persecution” that was “excessive, arbitrary, and disproportionate.”
It was not immediately clear why the government expected its new shutdown order to fare better at the high court. Perhaps the inclusion of the Kakuma camp, with a current population of about 190,000 refugees largely from South Sudan, will be enough to deflect legal challenges that attack the order as “group persecution” against Somalis, or the government feels the security situation has deteriorated enough that judges will no longer regard the order as arbitrary or disproportionate.
The Dadaab refugee complex, which dates back to 1991, was the largest such facility in the world at its peak and would have been considered one of the largest cities in Kenya if the population was Kenyan.
Reuters noted the shutdown order comes at a moment of severe tension between Kenya and Somalia, which broke off diplomatic relations with its neighbor last December, accusing the Kenyans of meddling in Somali politics.
Kenya and Somalia also brought a maritime border dispute before the International Court of Justice this week, potentially affecting their respective national boundaries in an area believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. The Kenyan interior ministry told Reuters the camp closings are not intended to bring diplomatic pressure against Somalia.
UNHCR urged the Kenyan government to make sure that “suitable and sustainable solutions” can be found for residents of the shuttered camps and complained about the “short timeframe” given for the relief agency to make plans.
Closing camps will greatly impact refugees' protection - UNHCR
Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps host over 500,000 families.
By PATRICK VIDIJA - 24. March 2021
• The commission on Wednesday said the move would impact the protection of refugees in the country, including in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
• Matiangi said if the two weeks lapse without the UNHCR taking any action, the government is set to have the refugees deported back to their countries of origin.
Refugees at the Dadaab camp Image: FILE
The United Nations Human Rights Commission now says a move by the government to close the Kakuma and Dadaab camps will have a great impact on the refugees.
The commission on Wednesday said the move would impact the protection of refugees in the country, including in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The statement comes hours after Interior CS Fred Matiangi ordered the closure of the two sprawling camps that host hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Somalia.
The CS gave the UN refugee agency an ultimatum of 14 days to present a plan to do so.
“There is no room for negotiation. We must strike a balance between Kenya’s international obligation and her domestic duties. We do have a domestic responsibility to protect Kenya,” read part of Matiangi's letter to the agency.
Matiangi cited terror threats as the main reason for its latest request and neglect by other countries to aid in managing the over 500,000 refugees.
According to the CS, the Mpeketoni, Lamu, Garrisa and Westgate attacks were planned and executed from the said refugee camps.
He also cited the smuggling of contraband from Somalia as being the main source of funding terrorism activities despite the governments’ effort to cab illegal trading within the borders.
Matiangi said if the two weeks lapse without the UNHCR taking any action, the government is set to have the refugees deported back to their countries of origin.
About 500,000 families living in the two camps would be affected by the move.
But UNHCR in their response said they were grateful to the Kenyan government for generously hosting the refugees and asylum-seekers for several decades.
"We recognise the impact this generosity has had. We will continue our dialogue with Kenyan authorities on this issue," read part of the statement.
The agency said the government should however ensure that any decisions allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found and that those who continue to need protection are able to receive it.
"UNHCR stands ready to support the government of Kenya in continuing and further strengthening the work that is ongoing to find solutions that are orderly, sustainable and respect refugee rights," the agency said.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights-KNCHR- said it maintains that security policies and practices must be consistent with human rights standards and principles in keeping with Article 238(2)b of the Constitution.
Chief Executive Officer and Secretary to the Commission Bernard Mogesa said the commission acknowledges Kenya's legitimate security concerns and appreciates the ongoing efforts by the government to combat insecurity especially terrorism.
"KNCHR holds this position and that Kenya must uphold all its obligations under national, regional and international human rights law especially the principle of non-refoulment which protects asylum seekers and refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened," Mogesa said.
The CEO said the principle of nonrefoulement is core to the international refugee protection regime and is a customary norm of the international law to which Kenya is a signatory.
"The commission wishes to remind the government of the judgment in the constitutional petition ... where the courts held that closing the camps and collectively repatriating refugees would be a grave violation to the Constitution," he said.
Kenya has been planning to shut the two camps since 2016 on grounds that the Somalia-based al Shabaab militants were using them as bases to plan attacks across the country.
The High Court however blocked the move in 2017, saying it was unconstitutional and violated Kenya’s international obligations.
In 2019, the government made other orders to close the two camps again.
UNHCR was given a deadline of six months to move the refugees.
“UNHCR is aware of the renewed call by the Government of Kenya to close Dadaab and is working with the government to continue to implement long-term and sustainable solutions for over 210,000 refugees living in the camp,” UNHCR responded in a statement.
According to the agency, these included voluntary returns, third-country solutions such as resettlement, sponsorship, family reunifications and labour migration, as well as relocations in Kenya, including at Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei Settlement.
But human rights groups criticized the renewed push saying it threatened the rights and safety of the mostly Somali refugees, who could be forced to return home.
A story ran by Reuters indicated that by 2019 UNHCR had helped almost 83,000 people return to Somalia voluntarily since 2015.
But the number of returnees dropped in 2018 to about 7,500 compared to about 35,500 in 2017 and 34,000 in 2016.
The latest move comes amid deteriorating diplomatic ties between Nairobi and Mogadishu.
Mogadishu last December announced it had cut its ties with Nairobi over what it termed as Nairobi's interference with its internal affairs.
The two nations are also facing off at the International Court of Justice over a maritime boundary dispute which Kenya pulled out last minute citing bias from the presiding judges.
Kenya: UNHCR responds to Matiang’i ultimatum on closure of refugee camps
By Citizen Reporter - 24. March 2021
- Dr. Matiang'i issued a 14-day ultimatum to the refugee agency on closure of the two camps stating that there is no room for further negotiations.
- This is the second attempt by the Kenyan Government to have the camps closed and refugees repatriated.
- The population of refugees in Daadab and Kakuma camps is estimated to be 217,000 and 190,000 respectively.
The UN refugee agency has urged the Kenyan Government to ensure that any decisions on the Daadab and Kakuma camps allow for suitable and sustainable solutions to be found.
Responding to the directive from the Interior CS Fred Matiang’i that was issued on Wednesday, the agency called for consideration of those who live in the camps for need of protection.
“The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue our dialogue with the Kenyan authorities on this issue,” the statement reads.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed its gratitude to Kenyans for ‘generously hosting refugees and asylum-seekers for several decades’ saying it recognises the impact this has had.
“UNHCR stands ready to support the Government of Kenya in continuing and further strengthening the work that is ongoing to find solutions that are orderly, sustainable and respect refugee rights,” the statement adds.
On Wednesday, Dr. Matiang’i issued a 14-day ultimatum to the refugee agency on closure of the two camps stating that there is no room for further negotiations.
This is the second attempt by the Kenyan Government to have the camps closed and refugees repatriated.
The population of refugees in Daadab and Kakuma camps is estimated to be 217,000 and 190,000 respectively.
When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya, the government banned movement in and out of two huge refugee camps as part of containment measures.
This was aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus among vulnerable communities.
The directive followed warnings from health experts and humanitarian groups that an outbreak of COVID-19 in densely populated refugee camps would be catastrophic.
Dadaab was established by the United Nations in 1991, and has since mushroomed, with more refugees streaming in, uprooted by drought and famine as well as on-going insecurity.
Additional report from Reuters and Aljazeera
UN appeals for $266M to end food cuts to millions of refugees in Eastern Africa
- The U.N. agencies warn of growing risks if food rations are not fully restored.
- These include increased malnutrition and anemia, stunted child growth and a myriad of protection risks.
- They say the COVID-19 pandemic is compounding problems for refugee families.
- They note lockdowns and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus have wiped out the ability of families to support themselves.
The World Food Program and the U.N. Refugee Agency are appealing for $266 million to restore full food rations for more than 3 million refugees in Eastern Africa.
Millions of refugees in camps across East Africa are not getting enough to eat. U.N. agencies have been forced to cut food rations in countries across the region because of a lack of cash.
The most dramatic situation is in Rwanda, where refugees are having their food rations cut by 60%.
In Uganda, which hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, the World Food Program has cut its food assistance to 1.27 million refugees by 40%.
Other countries affected by severe funding shortages include Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia.
WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says refugees depend on humanitarian assistance to survive.
He says ration cuts have many serious knock-on effects that go beyond the health consequences of being deprived of critical nutritional needs.
“When food is in short supply, protection concerns, including sexual and gender-based violence, increases in the camps, and this can also serve to significantly escalate tensions even within hosting areas,” he said.
The U.N. Refugee Agency says people who do not have enough to eat are forced to resort to so-called negative coping mechanisms to survive. [N.B.: What UNHCR describes here diplomatically is: Prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse (often organized by or with the help of government officials), child trafficking (international 'adoption' rackets), slave labour (widespread), recruitment into political or criminal gangs, extortion of money from relatives abroad, relief food scams.]
UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov says the cuts in food aid are having dramatic consequences.
“Already, the cuts in food rations and cash are forcing people to skip or reduce meals, to sell off their belongings, and the risks are growing, including of child labor and domestic violence. People are already feeling desperate, and we need the support to ease their hardship,” he said.
The U.N. agencies warn of growing risks if food rations are not fully restored.
These include increased malnutrition and anemia, stunted child growth and a myriad of protection risks.
They say the COVID-19 pandemic is compounding problems for refugee families.
They note lockdowns and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus have wiped out the ability of families to support themselves and find a way to put food on the table.
KNOWN SINCE A YEAR:
Kenya: Refugees in Kenya Suffer Aid Cuts Amid Covid-19 Pandemic
By Kevin J. Kelley - 28 AUGUST 2020
New York — The roughly half-million refugees living in Kenya are experiencing steep reductions in aid as the coronavirus pandemic causes some rich countries to limit their donations.
Cash allotments for the purchase of food have had to be cut by 30 percent for residents of the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday.
"Governments are dealing with the problem of Covid in their own countries," WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon noted. And as a result of sharply increased expenditures to fight the pandemic, some of those governments are reducing funding for international refugee assistance, he said.
At the same time, the pandemic's impact on supply chains has raised WFP's cost of delivering aid to refugees throughout East Africa, Mr Smerdon added.
The agency now requires $323 million in donations over the next six months to assist the total of 2.7 million refugees living in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, and Djibouti.
That sum represents a 22 percent increase from the same period in 2019, WFP stated.
Mr Smerdon declined to specify which countries have reduced their donations to the WFP refugee programme in East Africa.
"We don't want to name and blame donors," he said, adding, "They know who they are."
The United States, the single-largest contributor to WFP, is not among the donor nations that have cut back on their giving, Mr Smerdon did say. In fact, the US has increased its contributions this year, he noted.
Children in refugee camps in Kenya and neighbouring countries have been receiving less to eat as a result of funding shortfalls, WFP said.
The agency has been unable to provide take-home rations to children whose schools have been closed in response to the pandemic.
Extended school closures harm refugee children in additional ways, WFP pointed out.
They face increased risk of teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, violence at home and child labour, the agency warned.
"Sadly, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged who suffer the most," said Michael Dunford, WFP Eastern Africa regional director. "We simply cannot let this happen. Covid-19 cannot be an excuse for the world to turn its back on refugees at this terrible time."
Refugees in Africa face hunger as COVID-19 worsens food shortages, agencies warn
By Citizen Reporter - 09 July 2020
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are warning that severe underfunding, conflict and disasters – as well as supply chain challenges, rising food prices and loss of income due to COVID-19 – threaten to leave millions of refugees in Africa without food.
“Millions of refugees throughout Africa are currently reliant on regular aid to meet their food needs,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Around half are children, who may develop life-long difficulties if deprived of food at vital stages in their development.”
Unless urgent action is taken to address the situation, levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia are expected to rise. In refugee camps in Ethiopia, 62% of children are experiencing critical levels of anemia.
“While the situation continues to deteriorate for everyone, the disaster is magnified for refugees who have absolutely nothing to cushion their fall,” said WFP Executive Director, David Beasley.
“In the best of times, refugees live in cramped conditions, struggle to meet their basic needs and often have no option but to rely on outside assistance for their survival. Now more than ever, they need our lifesaving support.”
WFP is providing food assistance to more than 10 million refugees worldwide, including to those in the world’s largest refugee settlements, such as Bidibidi settlement in Uganda, where rations were reduced by 30% in April due to lack of funding.
Refugee populations who were previously able to feed and fend for themselves, including many living in urban areas and those working in the informal economy, are also facing significant challenges.
Large numbers have lost their only source of income as work possibilities disappeared due to COVID-19 prevention measures.
Most are not covered by social protection schemes, leaving many families destitute and dependent on humanitarian assistance. In South Africa, many refugees are in danger of being evicted and have approached UNHCR helplines in desperate need of food and support.
At the same time, import and export restrictions are squeezing supply chains.
In the mostly landlocked Sahel, COVID-19 prevention measures such as border closures and movement restrictions limit capacity to transport produce in a region where escalating insecurity, violence and conflict – compounded by the impact of climate change and poverty – have disrupted food security and livelihoods for millions of people.
Assistance for extremely vulnerable groups, including more than 1.2 million refugees in the region, needs to be sustained.
In Cameroon, WFP was forced to reduce its assistance to refugees from the Central African Republic by 50% in May and June due to funding gaps and, based on current funding levels, will have to stop cash assistance entirely from August. Cuts in rations are also expected for Nigerian refugees in the country from July.
Across East Africa, unstandardized health measures at multiple borders have created congestion, delaying vital aid and trade flows.
Lack of recognition of test results in neighbouring countries and the requirement to wait for test results have caused long queues and delays at custom points. COVID-19-induced transport delays have negatively impacted food prepositioning in South Sudan ahead of the rainy season, requiring WFP to work extra hard to keep roads open during the rains, with an increased risk of having to resort to extremely expensive air operations should overland options cease to be viable.
In many parts of the continent, food prices are rising, posing a potentially devastating threat to millions of refugees, particularly those who were already living hand-to-mouth on daily wages.
In the Republic of Congo, the average price of a basic food basket has increased by 15% while in Rwanda, WFP market monitoring around refugee camps found food prices were already on average 27% higher in April 2020 compared to 2019, and 40% higher than in 2018.
As a result of these challenges, many refugees are resorting to negative coping mechanisms, such as skipping meals or reducing meal portions.
More than 80% of refugees in South Sudan are estimated to be resorting to such measures. In some cases, refugees are resorting to begging, transactional sex, or early or forced marriages to be able to afford food.
Amidst severe underfunding, UNHCR and WFP are struggling to meet the rising needs, with the situation expected to worsen in many cases as costs rise, in part due to the unexpected expense involved in providing cooked meals in quarantine facilities.
In addition to the recent cuts in Uganda, more than 3.2 million refugees in East Africa are already receiving reduced rations due to underfunding, including in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Significant funding shortfalls threaten, or have already given rise to food cuts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.
UNHCR and WFP are concerned about the negative impact of reduced assistance on refugees and urge donors in the international community to provide further funding to ensure refugees do not face starvation.
Globally, WFP activities supporting refugees have a net funding requirement of more than US$ 1.2 billion for the next six months (July-December), of which some US$ 694 million is for operations in Africa.
As part of the broader UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19, UNHCR is requesting some US$745 million for life-saving interventions, of which US$227 million is for operations in Africa.
African governments are urged to ensure refugees and displaced populations are included in social safety nets and COVID-19 response plans, in line with commitments to the Global Compact on Refugees, to ensure they are able to access food and emergency cash assistance.
When Kenya threatened last Friday to shut down the largest refugee camp in the world and rid the country of over half a million refugees, many people initially questioned whether it was serious.
The practicalities just didn’t make sense. Over 350,000 people live in Dadaab, a network of camps in Kenya’s northeastern desert, and around 150,000 more live in Kenya’s second refugee camp, Kakuma.
It would take a huge amount of money and manpower to dismantle the thousands of tents, huts and buildings in Dadaab, which today include shops and cinemas, churches and mosques. Even more difficult is the prospect of forcibly uprooting hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom have spent their whole lives in the camps.
“Actually closing Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps would be like wiping two large cities off the face of the earth,” said Mark Yarnell, senior advocate at Washington, D.C.-based Refugees International.
“Moving ahead with a forced shutdown of the camps would create a humanitarian disaster of massive proportions,” he told The WorldPost.
Kenya has threatened to shut down refugee camps in the country twice before in recent years before backtracking. Yet refugees, aid agencies and the United Nations are now grappling with the possibility that the government might actually follow through this time.
The first sign was when Kenya dissolved its Department of Refugee Affairs overnight. Then, it formed a task force on Wednesday to manage the closure of Dadaab (without mentioning Kakuma or other refugees in the country), and said it was putting $10 million toward the effort. A Kenyan interior ministry official said the first group of refugees would leave Dadaab by November, and the camp would be fully closed by next May.
Even so, experts say Kenya’s plan still doesn’t add up.
They were highly skeptical of the government’s claim that refugees would leave voluntarily. “It is difficult to imagine hundreds of thousands of refugees leaving in a short time and in conditions of a voluntary nature,” said Duke Mwancha, a U.N. refugee agency spokesman in Kenya. He said the U.N. agency would not take part in any forced return operation, which is illegal under international law.
Then there’s the question of where the refugees will go. Most of Dadaab’s residents are from neighboring Somalia, a country with a fragile government and frequent attacks by Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. While Kenya says Somalia is now safe, many Somalis fear returning. If forced back to the country, they could easily just slip back over the porous border into Kenya.
Kenyan officials said some refugees could be moved to other, safer countries, but it wasn’t clear which countries would accept them; Kenya’s neighbors already have large refugee populations.
Since the camp was established following Somalia’s 1991 civil war, a whole generation of has grown up in the camp. “Dadaab is the only home we know,” Somali refugee Hassan wrote in Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation this week. The closure announcement “has left many like me wondering whether we will now be truly homeless.”
Kenya says it is necessary to close Dadaab refugee camp because it has been infiltrated by al-Shabaab, which has waged deadly attacks inside Kenya and poses a security threat to the country. Refugee advocates say these claims are overblown for political reasons, and closing the camp could actually have the reverse effect on regional stability.
“Kenya says their goal is to increase security, but to force hundreds of thousands of people into an insecure area would only create insecurity,” Yarnell told The WorldPost.
Somalia on Thursday warned Kenya against sending refugees back over the border. “The move will make the threat of terrorism worse, not better, given the volatile situation this decision and the proposed subsequent actions will cause,” a statement from the Somali foreign ministry said.
Some analysts suspect that Kenya is manufacturing a crisis over refugees to send a message to the international community that it needs to step up funding for refugees, and to accelerate official procedures to resettle them elsewhere.
Refugee experts acknowledge these concerns are valid. While world attention has been consumed with the refugee crisis on Europe’s borders, the vast majority of refugees live in developing nations like Kenya. Dadaab is overcrowded, underfunded, and has faced frequent food ration cuts.
“This is what happens when the West does not exercise global leadership [over refugees],” said Ben Rawlence, the author of the book City Of Thorns, which tells the stories of refugees in Dadaab. “We can’t expect countries to help refugees when we’re not doing our share.”
Kenyan officials have pointed to Europe’s hypocrisy over the global refugee crisis in statements about the closure of Dadaab.
“There has been a fall-off in the voluntary international funding for the camps in Kenya, in favour of raising budgets in the northern hemisphere to refugees headed to the West,” Kenya’s Principal Secretary for the Interior wrote in an editorial defending the policy this week. “International obligations in Africa should not be done on the cheap; the world continues to learn the ruinous effect of these persistent double standards.”
Further, Europe’s reaction to the refugee crisis, especially the recent deal to stop refugees leaving Turkey in exchange for refugee aid, sets a cynical precedent that Kenya is following, refugee advocates say.
“This is happening in a global context where refugees have become trading chips in political negotiations,” Yarnell said. “When Turkey gets paid $6 billion to stem the flow of refugees from their country, it becomes more difficult for international actors to say this is inappropriate.”
Doctors Without Borders on Friday urged Kenya to fight the West’s double-standards by setting a good example to Europe. “Rather than endorsing the broken and inhumane policies of the EU and others, now, more than ever, is the time for Kenya to embrace and continue its tradition of providing refuge,” the medical aid group said in a statement.
There may be other political factors behind the timing of the announcement. Kenya contributes some 3,500 troops to the African Union force in Somalia, which needs its mandate renewed by the U.N. by the end of the month.
Additionally, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta kicked off his campaign for re-election in 2017 the week before the announcement. “By scoring political points through blaming refugees, [Kenya’s politicians] are taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook,” Yarnell said.
Human rights groups are concerned that Kenyan politicians’ statements this week linking the camps to terrorism will bring a backlash against refugees. “This has increased the negative and xenophobic attitude against Somali refugees,” said Victor Nyamori, Amnesty International’s refugee officer in Kenya. “Refugees should not be used as a scapegoat for security challenges.”
They also fear the police will exploit the threat of expulsion to step up arrests of refugees and demands for bribes to avoid arrest, as had happened in the past, after terror attacks or government warnings about refugees. Community leaders have already reported increased police harassment of refugees since last Friday’s announcement, particularly in urban areas like Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, Nyamori said.
“The mere statement [of closing refugee camps] gives blanket cover for security forces to commit extortion against refugees,” Yarnell said. “Somalis are targeted by police for extortion, especially in Eastleigh, because they are vulnerable — they are even referred to as human ATMs by the police.”
The government’s move to close the Department of Refugee Affairs has also taken a toll on refugees in Kenya. They depended on the bureau to get permits to move around the country, including for medical treatment. Doctors Without Borders said at least four of its patients in Dabaab had been waiting for emergency referrals since last week. The department was also responsible for registering new refugees arriving in Kenya, and around 2,000 people who fled South Sudan were already unable to register this week, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“This is unbelievable...everyone is just stunned and really sad,” Abdullahi Aden Hassan, a spokesman of refugees in Dadaab, told The Guardian. “There is still war going on in so many parts of Somalia. It is simply too dangerous to return at this time.”
Research findings say that in the world today, there are more displaced persons than any other point in history. This displacement has been brought about by various reasons such as civil and political strife, persecutions either religious or political, environmental disasters, conflict and economic strain as you will note from the below Africa’s biggest refugee camps.
Refugee camps are often defined as unplanned settlements which are put up to accommodate persons fleeing their countries or usual habitats in search of a place to seek refuge. They provide the refugees with food, shelter, education and health care.
Africa’s biggest refugee camps have become home to thousands of displaced persons who have turned to them to seek solace, shelter and some semblance of comfort after having been forced to flee their homes due to political strife, conflict, persecutions, economic strain as well as natural disasters.
Africa’s Biggest Refugee Camps
Name Country and Population
- Dadaab, Kenya (250,000)
- Kakuma, Kenya (184,550)
- Hagadera, Kenya (105,998)
- Dagahaley, Kenya (87,223)
- Ifo, Kenya (84,089)
- Yida, South Sudan (70,331)
- Katumba, Tanzania (66,416)
- Mishamo, Tanzania (62,000)
- Pugnido, Ethiopia (62,000)
10. Nyarugusu refugee camp Kigoma, in Tanzania (150,000)
The article below seeks to enlighten us about the biggest refugee camps in Africa, the number of refugees resident in each of them and when and why they were established.
Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya
Africa’s biggest refugee camp it is. Dadaab is the most populous of all refugee camps in Africa and the largest in the world. It is home to over 250,000 refugees who have fled their countries due to various reasons such as civil and political strife, religious or political persecutions, economic hardships as well as extreme environmental conditions such as famine.
The camp is so large that it contains several other refugee camps within itself. Refugees here are provided with basic amenities such as food, shelter, and clothing. They are also provided with education, health facilities, and communication devices to enable them to communicate with their families and familiarize themselves with technology.
However, late last year the Kenyan government had proposed to close the refugee camp citing security issues such as terrorism. This would have left scores of refugees displaced. As a result of this, the United Nations came to their aid and requested the closure be postponed for a while. This resulted in the Kenya high court making the closing order void until further notice.
Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
Kakuma is situated in the Northwestern part of Kenya. It is home to over 184,500 refugees. It was established in the year 1992. Majority of the refugees in this camp are of Sudanese, Ethiopian and Somali descent. However, it is reported that refugees from twenty other nations are resident here making it one of the most popular refugee camps in Africa. Most of them have fled their countries of origin due to civil strife.
Kakuma is co-managed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission and Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs. It has however been reported that the situation at Kakuma refugee camp is wanting as it is quite congested. This is because the little infrastructure available has been overstretched by the large masses of people living there and those who still continue to trickle in every day.
Severe cases of disease outbreaks and malnutrition affecting the inhabitants of this camp have been reported. The United Nations has tried to deal with the current congestion problem at Kakuma by setting up another extension to the camp called Kalobeyi settlement. It is already home to 6,000 refugees and the maximum capacity of refugees it can hold stretches to 60,000.
Hagadera Refugee Camp, Kenya
Hagadera was established in 1992. It’s part of Dadaab complex of refugee camps and the largest of them all. It is home to over 100, 000 refugees, most of the being of Somali descent, making it one of the biggest refugee camps in Africa. The camp is however faced with serious congestion issues and as a result, the inhabitants have been faced with severe malnutrition due to the inadequate food supply.
More so, the camp is situated in a harsh climatic area, characterized by little rainfall, extreme heat, and strong winds. This has over time seen its population decline drastically, with thousands of refugees moving to other informal settlements on its outskirts in a bid to decongest it.
Dagahaley Refugee Camp, Kenya
Just like its predecessor, Dagahaley refugee camp is also part of the Dadaab complex. It has a steadily growing population that is almost hitting the 90,000 mark. Established in the 1990s, its main purpose then, was to house refugees fleeing the Somali Civil War.
Dagahaley has over time attracted a large number of refugees resulting to overcrowding thus, resulting in malnutrition and disease outbreaks due to poor sanitation. It also provides educational services which include primary, secondary, adult schools and vocational training.
Shelter and infrastructure remain to be the biggest challenge in this refugee camp, resulting in space boundary conflicts among the refugees sometimes.
IFO Refugee Camp, Kenya
IFO refugee camp is also part of Dadaab’s complex and the oldest of them all as a matter of fact. It is home to over 62,000 refugees most of them being of Somali descent and the rest of its inhabitants being from ten other different countries.
2011 saw it open another second camp called Ifo 2 to ease congestion due to the large influx of refugees from Somali. Popular refugee camps in Africa such as this one provides a safe haven for children and adults who have fled their countries due to various crises.
One thing that stands out about this camp is its fostering program for displaced children, which helps them find safer homes with other refugee families. It is also one of the leading camps in the health sector, having a level-four hospital which provides surgical services as well as antenatal and prenatal care for pregnant women. However, congestion is still one of the problems facing IFO as well as its location in a flood prone area.