Kenya wants camps inside Somalia for refugees

April 20, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya April 20 – The government now wants the international community to consider establishing camps for internally displaced persons within Somalia to curb the influx of refugees from the war torn country into Kenya.

Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia on Wednesday said Kenya was already strained with the burden of housing nearly one million refugees, with the number increasing by the day.

"This has been our proposal to the UNHCR and the international community.  Isn\’t it possible to secure some space inside Somalia and then have them build commercial centres within Somalia and secure them?" he asked.

"It is possible that the international community can secure these refugees inside their own country," he added.

Speaking when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR representatives at the Office of the President, the PS said Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps are already too congested and the government is not prepared to have refugees in every part of the country.

The MOU is a security partnership agreement that enables the government to provide additional 400 security personnel to refugees at the camps in Kakuma and Dadaab.

"We have a very close working relationship with the UNHCR and we are working together, we are going to provide them with additional security personnel to ensure there is security at the camps and surrounding areas," Mr Kimemia said.

"We have a lot of refugees crossing the border every day… this figure is increasing by the day. Dadaab itself already has up to 350,000 refugees.  This number is far too big for a country to handle," he added.

Aden Sugow of Fafi constituency in North Eastern Province who was also present at the meeting accused the government of concentrating too much to uplift the lives of refugees at the expense of host communities.

"We are almost raising our hands (in defeat) and saying that enough is enough because if there is no light at the end of Somalia, the Ministry might have to go out its way to shop for other counties in other provinces to resettle these refugees, so that we can share the burden because we are unable to carry this burden anymore," he protested.

"There is no any clear policy from the government side; from agencies anywhere to address either the destroyed environment or to mitigate future problems. The host community in that area is suffering a lot due to the presence of these refugees and we are not seeing a solution for the Somalia crisis coming out anytime soon," the MP who is also the Assistant Minister for Public Service said.

Mr Kimemia said the government had noted all the concerns raised by the host communities in North Eastern Province and assured that they will be addressed.

"We are aware that these refugees are straining resources of the host communities. They are cutting trees to construct houses and there is the issue of some of the refugees coming all the way with their cattle which come to compete on grazing grounds with locals," he said.

He said although the government had not given a deadline for its proposal to the international community it hopes that it will be considered to find a lasting solution.

"We believe that this is something that is possible although we are aware that the UNHCR regulations do not allow a country to close borders for refugees. We are only proposing this because we know that there are areas in Somalia which are peaceful and those fleeing war from other areas can be resettled there," he added.

UNHCR Representative in Kenya Elike Segbor assured that the government\’s proposal would be considered but warned that international laws prohibit a government from closing its borders to refugees.

"We are prepared to any solution that will help Somalis go back home. We are prepared to repatriate them if there is a zone in that part of the country, but of course it will take the mobilization of the international community it will take a lot of lobbying from the government of Kenya with the legitimate government of Somalia but it is an idea that need to be tabled and considered seriously because the problem is serious," he added.

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