The World’s Largest Refugee Camp is Closing

Nairobi, Kenya (TFCThe Kenyan government is constructing a timetable to close all refugee camps due to security concerns. About 600,000 people will be displaced– some of which have spent decades or even their entire lives in the camps.

The Dadaab camp lies along the Somali border; the Kenyan government claims Islamists are using the camp to launch attacks in Nairobi. Kenya’s camps host refugees from neighboring war-torn countries Sudan and Somalia. The Kenyan government has tried to close the camps before. In 2013 they abandoned the original plan after the UN told them they can’t forcibly return refugees to their home countries. Despite Somalia’s al-Shabaab insurgency, Kenya has been successfully attempting to relocate a portion of their camps’ Somalian refugees voluntarily. Once given refugee status, a person cannot be forcibly returned to their homeland unless the situation has improved. According to Kenya, the situation in Somalia has improved. Whether it has improved enough to allow Kenya to forcibly return refugees is still up in the air.

Along with relocating refugees and closing the camps, Kenya is constructing a wall along the Somali border. The Kenyan government claims the wall is intended to minimize attacks in Kenya by al-Shabaab and hopefully keep out an insurgency. If Kenya is ultimately forced to keep their refugee camps open, the security wall would be a convenient solution to limit the amount of new (or returning) refugees entering the country. Also, if Kenya is constructing a wall to prevent violence overflowing from Somalia, the situation in Somalia probably hasn’t improved enough for them to forcibly return refugees.

This doesn’t leave refugees with many options– and could ultimately trigger another mass migration. If the UN turns their back on refugees and gives Kenya the green-light to close the camps, this could potentially cause people to find refuge under the “protection” of an insurgent group like al-Shabaab. Thus causing support to grow for insurgent groups throughout the entire region.

800px-Refugee_shelters_in_the_Dadaab_camp,_northern_Kenya,_July_2011_(5961213058)Europe was already unprepared to deal with the current Syrian refugee crisis and has been attempting to funnel the flow of refugees into Turkey. European leaders have even recently discussed setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria. NATO and the UK are also teaming up to patrol the Libyan coast and Aegean Sea to further halt the flow of migrants entering Europe. Europe cannot handle another mass migration, this time from Kenya, and security forces are already prepared to turn them away anyways.

This leaves the refugees at the Kenyan caps with little options: move on to another camp in a neighboring country or return to a violent war torn country. Either way, displacing 600,000 people is likely to have an extremely detrimental and far reaching effect on the entire region– how that will play out exactly is unknown.

As of now, the Kenyan government wants to close the camps in “the shortest time possible” while the UN is strongly urging them to reconsider.