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Opinion & Analysis

Refugees issue bigger than closing down camps

Kenya’s decision to close down the Daadab refugee camp while on the outset seems to have been made in a hurry, it has been on the cards for sometimes.

Outside the practical nightmares and international hue and cry that would accompany such a move oblivious of the escalation of root causes of migrations to the region, the refugee issue needed a different approach, in terms of searching for durable solutions as advanced by the United National High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Kenya’s long porous border with Somalia, its relative stability in a volatile region, constrained border management capacity and alleged complicity of corrupt officials are said to fuel the status of the country as a hub for irregular movement.

While Kenya is a signatory to the international conventions on refugees and has a legal regime on the same, security reasons especially terrorism seems to have taken precedence in making the move.

New focus

The Government needed to take charge and secure the camps.

Conservative estimates suggest nearly 42,000 of the registered refugees are Kenyans and registered as refugees because they wanted to benefit from refugee aid. The attention to the refugees issue has also ignited the debate on whether a new focus, in addition to the humanitarian approach to the issue is sufficient, or as UNHCR says, we need to add a development approach to solving the issue.

The situation of refugees has not been made any easier by the media.

Media continue to show insensitivity, unprofessionalism and lack of understanding of the subject.

There is a need for continued consultative meetings and engagements between the various players involved in matters refugees as we search for durable solutions to the problem, for given what is happening in the neighbouring countries.

The refugee issue is here to stay.

The author is deputy CEO, Media Council of Kenya.

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