Agencies reject plan to relocate Dadaab refugees
Posted Saturday, August 4 2012 at 19:45
A proposal by Kenya for a phased relocation of refugees from Dadaab camp back to Somalia has put the country on a collision course with global humanitarian bodies.
This has forced a delay in the plan to depopulate the camp identified as one of the planning hubs for Al Shabaab terrorist group.
Kenya government officials said its position is to have the refugees relocated to safer areas that have been liberated from Al Shabaab by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) inside Somalia to reduce the security threat the camp presents.
“Our government’s position is that the Somali refugees in Dadaab refugee camps be relocated to these pacified areas with support from the international community.
We are consulting with the UNHCR and other development partners on the logistics of implementing this programme,” said Mutea Iringo, the acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security.
Kenya is already facing a shortage of police personnel, limiting its ability to police the camp adequately.
Although UNHCR denied having been consulted on relocation by Kenya, diplomatic sources speaking off-the-record said the government had shared the relocation plan but it was “vehemently” opposed by aid and human-rights agencies.
Humanitarian agencies have opposed the relocation on the basis that it will make it harder to reach the refugees inside Somalia and will expose the humanitarian workers to more risk of abduction and killing by Al Shabaab terrorists.
The agencies also said relocation will expose the refugees to higher risk of attacks because there is no functioning local administration police or even Amisom troops to offer protection.
Kenya has argued that the pacified areas are relatively peaceful and the presence of the Kenya Defence Forces and the Juba Valley administration that is supported by Kenya will ensure the safety of the returning refugees and workers.
Kenya is also betting on the transition that will start in August to have an elected government in Somali to push for its relocation case.
Dadaab camp, which has witnessed eight terrorist attacks and several abductions of foreign and Kenyan aid workers since March this year, hosts 500,000 refugees, most of them from Somalia.
Aid agencies are already warning that the increase in refugee numbers is stretching resources available with $25 million currently needed in emergency funds in the next three months, said Oxfam spokesman Alun McDonald.
Kenya government is convinced Dadaab is hosting Al Shabaab sympathisers and is being used as a planning and small bombs assembly base by the terrorist group.
The camp has been relatively secure in the past two decades of its existence but attacks have happened since last year when Kenya invaded Somalia.