NAIROBI, July 3 – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has begun transferring some refugees from the congested Dadaab camp in North Eastern to Kakuma refugee camp in the North West region of the country.
The first convoy of ten buses carrying 501 individuals arrived in Kakuma Wednesday afternoon.
UNHCR plans to move 1,000 more refugees to Kakuma in the next two weeks in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The next convoy leaves Dadaab on Monday next week followed by another one, a week later.
Movement of refugees from Dadaab to Kakuma is one of the strategies by UNHCR and the Government to decongest Dadaab, a 16-year old camp which is currently hosting nearly twice the population it was designed for.
The camp currently hosts more than 200,000 refugees mainly from Somalia.
"While the transfer of these refugees is just a drop in the ocean, we are looking at other ways of decongesting the camps including a possibility of allocating additional land in the Dadaab area," said Liz Ahua, UNHCR Representative.
On transfer the refugees were provided with basic items including blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets, as well as information on all services available in Kakuma.
UNHCR and the Government of Kenya have been concerned about the congestion in Dadaab refugee camp. During the UN Refugee celebrations last month Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang appealed for international assistance in decongesting the camp. In his response UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres promised to petition the international community to commit more resources in expanding the camp besides aiding the transfer.
Continuing violence in Somalia has continued to push out civilians from their homes to the camp. This year alone, nearly 20,000 refugees have sought asylum in Dadaab refugee camp. Last year, more than 30,000 Somali refugees sought asylum in Kenya.
Kakuma refugee camp, on the other hand has witnessed a reduction in the number of refugees owing to the Sudanese repatriation process. The camp currently hosts some 51, 000 refugees most of them from Sudan. This year alone, UNHCR has helped more than 8,000 Sudanese refugees return home.