Kenya may be forced to delay closure of Dadaab Refugee Camp to avoid creating a situation of stateless people.
Nairobi’s delegation attending this year’s inter-governmental meeting on refugees and statelessness, in Geneva, Switzerland, last week admitted there were still people in Dadaab who may not return to their countries because they are Kenyans or qualify to be such.
For a long time the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab which used to have five sub-camps, has gradually been reduced as the population leaves in what officials say is mostly through voluntary repatriation.
In April, for example, Kenya degazetted Kambios and IFO-2 Camps “which had been emptied of refugees, who voluntarily returned home,” according to the government.
And the earlier announcement by the Refugee Affairs Secretariat was that the camp could be shut down as early as 2020.
Yet in Geneva, at the 70th Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (excom), Nairobi did admit the possibility of urgent closure creating a new problem.
“The Government of Kenya remains fully aware of the solutions required for the various categories of persons in the remaining camps in Daadab,” Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dr Cleopa Mailu said.
“In consultation with UNHCR, we envisage to continue seeking suitable solutions for those refugees who find themselves in mixed marriages as well as those who have the challenge of double registration,” added Dr Mailu, who headed a delegation that also included Acting Commissioner of Refugees Kodeck Makori.
Kenya hosts an overall refugee population of 479, 194 scattered in Dadaab, Kakuma and Nairobi. But it has often pushed for closure of Dadaab, arguing it has been used before to host terror merchants as well as being a conduit for contraband.
Once host to 600,000 refugees, mostly Somalis, it now hosts 212, 936 people, according to August data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Within Dadaab, however, there are cases of Kenyans who have registered as refugees. One joint survey by the government and UNHCR found as many as 40,000 people identified as ‘double registration’, which implies that they are bona fide Kenyans, but also listed as refugees, possibly through fraud.
Then there is a category of refugees who have married Kenyans or those who were born of refugee parents but on Kenyan soil.