Dadaab refugee camp: Somalia diplomat opposes closure
03 June 2016, 12:15
Nairobi – The Kenyan government's plan to close the
Dadaab refugee camp is "logistically impractical", according to
Somalia's ambassador to the US.
Ahmed Awad sounding a warning on Thursday, saying
that shutting the complex - which is home to at least 340 000 people - could
damage relations between Kenya and Somalia.
"I think Kenyans and Somalis have developed
closeness throughout the years," Awad told Al Jazeera.
"This issue should not undermine the progress
that our countries have made together."
He called on the Kenyan government reconsider its
plans to close the complex by November.
"To force 340 000 people to a place where they
have nothing, to go back after 25 years of absence, you wipe out all the
goodwill that you have gotten from these refugees."
Dadaab is the world's largest refugee camp.
"The Kenyan government should respect the call
of the international community, the humanitarian community and the sister
country of Somalia," Awad said.
"If you have tolerated 25 years of Dadaab
refugee camp, it doesn't take much with the help of the international
community, with cooperation from Somalia, to give a time, as we have already
agreed, for a voluntary return of these refugees in a very humane way."
In response, Mwenda Njoka, Kenyan interior ministy
spokesperson, denied that Kenya would be "dumping" refugees back
in Somalia, saying it had made arrangements with the local government of
Jubaland to resettle them on 10 000 acres north of Kismayo.
Awad suggested that the Jubaland resettlement plan
would violate a 2013 tripartite agreement with Somalia and the UN refugee
agency on the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees to their homeland.
"It's a little bit disappointing for the
spokesperson to disclose that they are trying to talk to some Somali individual
authorities when there are agreements in place, there are systems in place, to
address the concerns of the Kenyans in a very transparent way," he said.
Dadaab is comprised of five camps, and its
population is largely Somali.
The complex opened in 1991 as a temporary shelter
for Somalis fleeing civil war, but prolonged violence and insecurity has turned
the vast area into a virtual city.
Kenya says Dadaab has become a hive for the al-Shabaab
armed group, and that it is a strain on the country’s economy.