In March 2021, Kenya ordered the swift closure of Kakuma and Dadaab – two sprawling refugee camps that host greater than 400,000 folks, principally from neighbouring Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and gave the United Nations refugee company (UNHCR) simply two weeks to provide you with a plan to take action.
In response, UNHCR offered Kenya with what it stated have been “sustainable rights-based measures” for locating options for the refugees’ longstanding displacement – options that embody voluntary repatriation, departures to 3rd international locations below numerous preparations, and different keep choices in Kenya.
In the top, the refugee company and the Kenyan authorities agreed on a street map that may end in each camps being closed by June 30, 2022.
The announcement of an official closure date despatched shockwaves down the spines of lots of the camps’ residents.
Kakuma and Dadaab residents had heard numerous empty guarantees of higher living preparations and threats to be “sent back home” through the years. They had additionally repeatedly been accused of posing unspecified “security risks” to Kenyan residents, and blamed for the nation’s myriad issues. After the 2013 Westgate assault, for instance, Kenyan politicians had claimed, with none stable proof, that the Dadaab refugee camp had been changed into “a terrorist training ground” and urged the swift repatriation of all its residents. Human Rights Watch has referred to as out the Kenyan authorities for claiming Somali refugees within the camps are accountable for Kenya’s insecurity and acknowledged that officers “have not provided credible evidence linking Somali refugees to any terrorist attacks in Kenya”.
On the again of this painful historical past, the camp residents have been understandably sceptical of the “sustainable rights-based measures” UNHCR claimed would guarantee their “safe and dignified” exit from the camps earlier than the June 30 deadline. They didn’t imagine they’ll safely return to their home international locations, didn’t need to go to an unspecified third nation to begin yet again, and had no religion within the Kenyan authorities offering them with alternatives to combine themselves absolutely into Kenyan society.
I do know this as a result of, earlier than shifting to Canada final yr, I lived within the Kakuma refugee camp for 11 years. And for all these years, I skilled firsthand the fear of being kicked out of the one home at a second’s discover; the frustration of not having the rights and freedoms that may allow you to totally combine into society and construct a future for your self; and the anger of realizing that politicians in control of your future wouldn’t hesitate to make use of you as a scapegoat for any atrocity if it occurs to be useful for them.
All this isn’t to disclaim the generosity Kenya demonstrated in internet hosting so many refugees for therefore lengthy. Indeed, Kenyans welcomed me and a whole lot of hundreds of others like me of their nation in our time of want, and we are going to always remember this. But this doesn’t give the Kenyan politicians the precise to show us right into a political soccer, or just ignore us.
Sadly, that is what they’re at the moment doing.
Since the announcement that Kakuma and Dadaab camps might be closed by June 30, little has been performed to supply the camps’ residents with readability about their future.
Almost not one of the refugees returned to their home international locations because of safety considerations and the dearth of financial alternatives offered by such a move. It can also be nonetheless not clear what third-country choices are on the desk for lots of the camp residents.
Towards the top of 2021, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into regulation the brand new Refugee Act, which goals to supply the 2 camps’ residents with higher entry to training and employment in Kenya. There was additionally information of refugees beginning to obtain permits to work within the nation. But these efforts, ultimately, have been simply too little too late. Implementation of the Refugee Act has been sluggish. The parliament is but to move a regulatory framework for the brand new regulation. Many Dadaab and Kakuma residents nonetheless don’t see a simple path out of the camps and right into a dignified life in Kenya.
And with just a bit greater than a month left earlier than the deadline for closure, the nation’s leaders are nonetheless displaying little curiosity in offering camp residents with any data on what awaits of their future.
Kenya is because of maintain normal elections on August 9. Politicians from all events are engaged on overdrive to persuade Kenyans to vote for them and laying out their coverage proposals for the following 5 years, however they almost by no means point out Dadaab, Kakuma and the refugees who reside there. Even essentially the most outstanding presidential contenders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President William Ruto, have been fully silent on the problem.
But it doesn’t must be this manner.
It is obvious that Kenya is just not prepared to shut down Dadaab and Kakuma in a month’s time. The folks placing themselves ahead because the nation’s subsequent chief ought to settle for this actuality and lay out their plans for the camps and their residents.
This election could be a nice alternative for politicians to cease leaping between ignoring the existence of Dadaab and Kakuma fully and baselessly blaming Kenya’s safety issues on the camps. Instead, they might and will lay out an actual, workable plan for constructing a future for the camps’ residents inside Kenya.
Many of the a whole lot of hundreds of individuals living in these camps haven’t recognized any home apart from Kenya, and they’re wanting to turn into a part of the Kenyan society and contribute to the nation economically.
A politician lastly taking the steps to assist these residing within the camp – lots of them younger folks with huge goals for the longer term like me – will profit not solely the refugees however your complete nation.
Maybe the candidates suppose speaking about refugee camps within the run-up to the election might have an effect on their possibilities of profitable, or depart them open to populist assaults. And they’ve many urgent points to deal with, comparable to widespread youth unemployment, devastating ranges of poverty, and the droughts crippling the nation. But all this doesn’t imply whoever wins the election ought to as soon as once more depart these living in Kakuma and Dadaab to their fates.
The Refugee Act has already been handed – the blueprint for serving to folks like me turn into a part of Kenya is already within the palms of our leaders. The new president can work with UNHCR and different stakeholders, together with the refugees, to make sure environment friendly implementation of the act and assist the camps’ residents combine into society in order that the problem of Kakuma and Dadaab can actually be resolved as soon as and for all.
I’m scared about what might occur on June 30, however I’m additionally longing for the longer term. If the camps aren’t closed in a month – and it is rather unlikely that they are going to be – Kenya’s new chief could have an unmissable alternative to remodel one thing that has been seen as an issue for many years into a chance.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.