NAIROBI, June 20 – The government is seeking the international community’s assistance to deal with congestion at the Dadaab Refugee camp, which has been worsened by an upsurge of violence in Somalia.
During celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on Friday, Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang hinted that the government is considering creating more camps in the area, besides relocating some refugees to the Kakuma camp.
The minister alluded: “While expansion of the existing camps or creation of a fourth camp at Dadaab is an open option, viewed against the urgency of the need for decongestion and the process of negotiations involved, we believe the most viable option is relocation.”
In his response, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres pledged that he would urge the international community to commit resources towards dealing with the problem.
“We have had very interesting discussions with the government and with the host community, on one side creating conditions for expansion of the area and eventually for the creation of a new camp but at the same time engage the international community in a meaningful program of support to the host community,” he stated.
Guterres was however categorical that a lasting solution for the political instability in Somalia is inevitable as a permanent resolution to the problem.
“It is very important that resources are found for an international force to stabilise the country. We also need all international actors to act positively; it is very important that the only agenda in the intervention be ‘Somali peace’. It is not possible to have different and contradictory agendas.”
Guterres, who had first hand experience with the refugees at Dadaab and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Naivasha since he arrived early this week, also held talks with President Mwai Kibaki on Friday.
During the meeting, he expressed his solidarity with the Government in its efforts to resettle the IDPs and enable them resume their normal lives.
Kenyans meanwhile were urged to be more tolerant of refugees and immigrants residing in the country.
UNHCR Kenya spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera urged locals to resist xenophobic tendencies.
“Kenyans have tried. So far we have not seen incidents of Xenophobia and I can only encourage them to be tolerant because this is something which we need to practice,” he said.
World Refugee Day was initiated 57 years ago and this year’s celebrations were aimed at highlighting the plight of 11.4 million refugees currently in the world.
Friday’s fete came amidst a damning report criticising Kenya for its asylum policies, which include restricted mobility, enforced idleness and dependency.
Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma camps were voted as among the worst camps in the world refugee survey released on Thursday.
But Kajwang has committed to ensure that refugee rights are upheld, key among them freedom of movement and right to employment.
“I have asked the ministry to consult with other relevant government agencies to duly recognise the identity documents as a valid document for movement of refugees and access to services,” he said.
The government passed the Refugees Act in 2006 to govern refugee affairs in the country. The act is however yet to become operational due to lack of institutional and legal frameworks.
These Kajwang has promised to establish hastily.
The Immigration Minister said that he would be petitioning the Cabinet to consider integrating those who have stayed in the country for a long time.
He however warned refugees who have acquired Kenyan identity documents illegally of stern action.
Kenya currently plays host to over 250,000 refugees mainly from Somalia, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia.