Kenyan Government Says Largest Refugee Camp Soon Shutting Down

ICC Note: The Kenyan government recently announced plans to shut down the world’s largest refugee camp located in the country’s northeast corner near the Somali and Ethiopian borders. The camp in Dadaab currently houses 326,000 Somali refugees fleeing violence in their own country. Kenya now wants to shut the camp down because they consider it a security risk, since it could allow for the infiltration of Al-Shabaab terrorists into the country. Since their invasion of Somalia 2011, Kenya has seen a drastic increase in the number of terror attacks on their own soil, where the primary offender is the Islamist terror group al-Shabaab. Government officials say that they believe the situation in Somalia now is calmed down enough for refugees to return home. It is unclear yet whether the Kenyan government will have to resort to forceful deportation of the refugees if they refuse to leave Kenya after the planned shutdown. Christians remain al-Shabaab’s primary target, as the terror group consistently seeks to purge believers from land they consider to belong to Muslims.

07/24/2016, Dadaab, Kenya (Foreign Policy) –  Nafiso Mohamed Noor says she never wants to go back to Somalia. But if the Kenyan government follows through with its plan to close the world’s largest refugee camp by the end of the year, she may not have a choice.

Noor knows what it means to return prematurely to a war zone. In May 2015, after Kenya renewed what has become a perennial threat to shutter the sprawling, windswept settlement on its northeastern frontier that houses more than 326,000 refugees, most of them from neighboring Somalia, she decided to sign up for the U.N.’s voluntary repatriation program. Better to go back on her own terms than risk being rounded up and deported without warning, she thought.

So in August, after waiting three months for the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) to process her application, she boarded a flight to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. She found her old house in Wardigle, a neighborhood whose name in Somali roughly translates to “stream” — or “channel” — “of blood,” still standing. But less than two months later, a mortar fired by al-Shabab militants crashed into her kitchen. The round sheared off her right breast, sliced a 3-inch gash in her left foot, and left shards of metal embedded deep in her left hip.

“The shrapnel is still there,” she said recently, tracing a faint crescent shape near the ball of her femur on an X-ray taken here in Dadaab. “There, it looks like a moon.”

Noor returned to Dadaab as soon as she recovered from her injuries, but she once again faces the prospect of repatriation to Somalia before the war there is over. In May, the Kenyan government said it planned to close Dadaab for good, along with another refugee camp along its northwestern border that houses nearly 200,000 mainly South Sudanese refugees, citing security concerns. Since it invaded Somalia in 2011 to create a buffer zone against the growing al-Shabab threat, Kenya has seen a dramatic surge in domestic terrorist attacks. The government claims that some of the worst attacks, including those at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013 and at Garissa University College last year, were planned in Dadaab, although it has never produced any evidence to support this.

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