Faith groups seek permanent solution to refugee crisis in Kenya
As the world marked World Refugee Day on June 20, humanitarian and faith-based agencies said a permanent solution needs to be found for the nearly 600,000 people crowded into the Dadaab Refugee Camp complex in north-eastern Kenya.
Resources in the world’s biggest refugee camp are overstretched, following the arrival of large numbers of Somali migrants fleeing drought and war, and the agencies are stressing the resettlement or integration of the refugees into local communities.
“We can open a dialogue with governments on prospects of integration. We can do a lot to stabilise Somalia by way of local integrations,” Abel Mbilinyi, the Kenya deputy representative to the U. N. High Commissioner for Refugees said on June 14at an event in Nairobi launching a book called Out of Somalia.
Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagadera, the three camps of the complex, were created in 1992 as “safe havens” for 90,000 refugees. They have developed into a sprawling city of tents housing nearly 600,000 people. The agencies describe it an “imperfect safe haven” due to increased insecurity and overcrowding.
Severe shortages of food, water, shelter and medical supplies are also occurring due to decreased funding, the agencies said.
“Nearly 29,000 children in [the camps] are not attending school because we are not able construct schools, buy school material and pay teachers,” Lennart Hernander, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Kenya/Djibouti country representative told ENInews in an interview.
In Dadaab, LWF implements camp management and provides security, shelter and education. It needs to construct 30,000 shelters for nearly 150,000 new arrivals, according to Hernander.
“We are saying the international community has a responsibility to assist these refugees. It has the responsibility to help Kenya which is shouldering a heavy refugee burden,” he said.
According to Sora Katelo, Kenya’s Commissioner for Refugee Affairs, assistance from the government has been minimal, despite major challenges in camp management and security. “The host community is still struggling to convince the international community of their role in refugee protection,” he told ENInews.
An alternative to the camp, according Elena Velilla, Medecins Sans Frontieres head of Kenya Mission, would be “resettlement abroad and availing self-reliance opportunities for the refugees.”
She added that “in the short term, the immediate needs of the Somali people must not be forgotten, and their right to seek asylum must be protected,” she said at the book launch.
By Fredrick Nzwili, Ecumenical News International