Climate of fear in Dadaab refugee camp leads many to consider repatriation
For Ibrahim Hussein, it was the final blow. When the Kenyan government ordered the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp following the al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Garissa in April, Hussein gathered his courage and went to the UN refugee repatriation office to ask to be resettled back home in Somalia. After years of living in the largest refugee complex in the world, Dadaab had become an open-air prison to him, with little more to offer than a daily dose of anxiety.
“I came here because of the famine in 2011. I am a farmer. There is nothing for me here, I cannot work. We are not getting much food either,” says Hussein, seated in the office of the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. “And now they accuse us of being responsible for the attack. It’s not bearable.”
Located halfway between the Somali border and the Kenyan town of Garissa, andhome to an estimated 334,600 Somali refugees, Dadaab has once again become the focus of the Kenyan government’s response to terrorism after the massacre of 147 students at the University of Garissa last month.
Ten days after the attack, Kenya’s vice-president, William Ruto, gave the UN until July to relocate all the refugees and close the camp, saying that Dadaab has become a hideout for al-Shabaab in Kenya. “The group which attacked Garissa earlier this month … they stayed in the refugee camps,” said Bunow Korane, the chair of Kenya’s Refugee Affairs Commission. “They assembled their arms there.”
According to security experts, however, there is no evidence linking Dadaab or refugees to al-Shabaab and the Garissa attack.
Although this is not the first time that Kenya has demanded the closure of Dadaab following a terrorist attack, and despite government assurances that Somali refugees would not be forcibly repatriated, the announcement has created panic in the camp.
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