• Saturday, 22 June 2024
Garissa: Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps will be transformed into integrated settlements

Garissa: Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps will be transformed into integrated settlements

The government plans to transform the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps into integrated settlements where refugees will live alongside host communities.

As part of the agreement, the refugees will receive government services as the two camps are scheduled to close due to security concerns.

On Wednesday, an intergovernmental steering committee was formed to align the transition plan with the country's national security priorities, including the Refugee Act (2021), which outlines the privileges, opportunities, and occasions when such shall be withdrawn for refugees and asylum seekers.

Other key priorities of the committee, according to Interior Principal Secretary (PS) Raymond Omollo, will include increased border security and screening to prevent an influx of more refugees, as well as the enforcement of law and order in the settlement areas.

Kenya is currently Africa's fifth largest refugee hosting country and the world's 13th largest asylum country, hosting over 800,000 of both. The vast majority live in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, with over 91,000 others housed in other urban counties, primarily Nairobi.

In 2021, the government announced the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, which at the time housed over 500,000 refugees, mostly from neighboring Somalia.

According to the report, the camps have become a conduit for the smuggling of arms and contraband from Somalia, as well as a breeding ground for terrorism, with al shabaab militants planning attacks against Kenyans.

Security officials went on to say that Kenya had shed enough blood to stabilize Somalia and would not be targeted by terrorists as a result of its hospitality.

This comes after intelligence reports confirmed that the 2013 Westgate attack, the 2015 Garissa University attack, and the 2019 Dusit Complex attack were all planned and executed from Dadaab, noting that al shabaab continuously took advantage of overcrowding, under-resourced conditions, and limitations to policing UN-run sites to enter the camps posing as refugees and operate with alarming freedom.

"Kenya has been at the forefront of combating terrorism, promoting humanitarianism, and pursuing global peace and security." We, on the other hand, have no reason to continue jeopardizing our citizens' security in the face of inaction, double standards, and a lack of commitment to resettling Somali refugees in their homeland," former Interior PS Karanja Kibicho said.

As a result, PS Omollo warned that the settlement plan must be carefully implemented so that it does not become a magnet for criminals looking for ways to enter the country.

"We must be careful that the design and implementation of this plan do not become a draw factor for asylum seekers and refugees within the region." As of today, there are asylum seekers in Trans Zoia, primarily from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania, and the number is growing. Normally, that location is supposed to be a transit point with a capacity of around 400 people, but we are already seeing numbers in excess of 1,000," the PS said at a stakeholder meeting on the settlement plan in Nairobi.

The Refugee Act states that all registered refugees have the right to civil registration and identification sufficient to identify them as refugees or asylum seekers.

"Kenya's current refugee population is close to 800,000, with over 577,000 registered and over 200,000 being profiled in either the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps." The vast majority of these refugees are asylum seekers from the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions, according to Immigration and Citizen Services PS Julius Bitok.

They will also be able to obtain permits to engage in profitable enterprise, whether as individuals or in groups, and will be eligible for employment, thereby contributing to the economic development of their host communities.

Those who later decide to return to their home countries will be able to do so after surrendering the government-issued documents.

The move will also shift the funding model of refugees from aid dependency to development and self-sufficiency, as county governments hosting refugees transform the areas where refugees are concentrated into municipalities, making them eligible for assistance from development partners such as the World Bank and UN Habitat.

Turkana County has already elevated Kakuma town to the status of municipality, and Garissa governor Nathif Jama Adam has confirmed that he will soon sign the charter that elevates Dadaab town to the status of municipality.

This will entice investors to build permanent structures to replace the makeshift tents as refugees upgrade their lifestyles with their earnings.

UN agencies, donor partners, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the two camps have pledged their support for the plan, describing it as sustainable and capable of relieving resource pressure in the host communities.

However, privileges will be revoked for those who engage in criminal activities, particularly war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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