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 give you a plan to take action.
In response, UNHCR offered Kenya with what it stated had been “sustainable rights-based measures” for locating options for the refugees’ longstanding displacement – options that embrace voluntary repatriation, departures to 3rd nations underneath varied preparations, and different keep choices in Kenya.
In the long run, the refugee company and the Kenyan authorities agreed on a highway map that will 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 dwelling preparations and threats to be “despatched again dwelling” through the years. That they had additionally repeatedly been accused of posing unspecified “safety dangers” 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 was “a terrorist coaching floor” and urged the swift repatriation of all its residents. Human Rights Watch has known as out the Kenyan authorities for claiming Somali refugees within the camps are chargeable for Kenya’s insecurity and said that officers “haven’t offered credible proof linking Somali refugees to any terrorist assaults in Kenya”.
On the again of this painful historical past, the camp residents had been understandably sceptical of the “sustainable rights-based measures” UNHCR claimed would guarantee their “protected and dignified” exit from the camps earlier than the June 30 deadline. They didn’t consider they’ll safely return to their dwelling nations, didn’t wish to go to an unspecified third nation to start out yet again, and had no religion within the Kenyan authorities offering them with alternatives to combine themselves totally into Kenyan society.
I do know this as a result of, earlier than transferring to Canada final 12 months, I lived within the Kakuma refugee camp for 11 years. And for all these years, I skilled firsthand the concern of being kicked out of the one dwelling you already know at a second’s discover; the frustration of not having the rights and freedoms that will allow you to completely combine into society and construct a future for your self; and the anger of understanding that politicians accountable for your future wouldn’t hesitate to make use of you as a scapegoat for any atrocity if it occurs to be helpful for them.
All this isn’t to disclaim the generosity Kenya demonstrated in internet hosting so many refugees for thus lengthy. Certainly, Kenyans welcomed me and a whole lot of 1000’s of others like me of their nation in our time of want, and we are going to always remember this. However this doesn’t give the Kenyan politicians the proper to show us right into a political soccer, or just ignore us.
Sadly, that is what they’re at the moment doing.
Because the announcement that Kakuma and Dadaab camps can be closed by June 30, little has been performed to offer the camps’ residents with readability about their future.
Nearly not one of the refugees returned to their dwelling nations as a consequence of safety issues and the shortage of financial alternatives offered by such a transfer. Additionally it is nonetheless not clear what third-country choices are on the desk for lots of the camp residents.
In the direction of the tip of 2021, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into regulation the brand new Refugee Act, which goals to offer 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. However these efforts, ultimately, had 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 exhibiting little curiosity in offering camp residents with any data on what awaits of their future.
Kenya is because of maintain common 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 nearly by no means point out Dadaab, Kakuma and the refugees who dwell there. Even essentially the most outstanding presidential contenders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President William Ruto, have been utterly silent on the problem.
Nevertheless it doesn’t should be this manner.
It’s clear that Kenya will not be 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 is usually a nice alternative for politicians to cease leaping between ignoring the existence of Dadaab and Kakuma utterly and baselessly blaming Kenya’s safety issues on the camps. As a substitute, they might and may lay out an actual, workable plan for constructing a future for the camps’ residents inside Kenya.
Most of the a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals dwelling in these camps haven’t recognized any dwelling apart from Kenya, and they’re desirous 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 – a lot of them younger folks with massive goals for the long run like me – will profit not solely the refugees however the whole nation.
Possibly the candidates assume speaking about refugee camps within the run-up to the election might have an effect on their possibilities of successful, or go away them open to populist assaults. And so they have many urgent points to handle, resembling widespread youth unemployment, devastating ranges of poverty, and the droughts crippling the nation. However all this doesn’t imply whoever wins the election ought to as soon as once more go away these dwelling 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 brand 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 long run. If the camps are usually not closed in a month – and it is vitally unlikely that they are going to be – Kenya’s new chief may have an unmissable alternative to rework 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.