In February, the Kenyan government plans to close the world’s largest refugee complex. This was announced by Kenyan representatives in Istanbul at the World Humanitarian Summit in May. The complex is comprised of five camps which house mostly Somali refugees fleeing the local civil war. The ongoing battle has displaced one million Somalis and forced 300,000 to flee to Dadaab. Initially established as a temporary shelter at the start of the war in 1991, this camp has housed refugees up until now. The Kenyan government has linked the camp to Al-Shabaab, an Al Qaeda counterpart responsible for many terrorist attacks in Nairobi. Kenya’s vice president said that Dadaab is “a security threat, a haven for terrorism and a conduit for contraband goods as well as a danger to the environment.” The Kenyan government wants the camp to be shut down for the sake of Kenya’s national security.
In 2013, Kenya, Somalia, and the UN refugee agency came to a tri-partisan agreement which dictated that refugee camps in Kenya could not send Somalis back to their country because of the violent war. The Jubaland Resettlement Plan, or the placement of Somalis back within their country, violates this agreement. UN officials have also directed Kenya to delay the shutdown, saying that sending Somalis back is unsafe and inhumane.
Somali government officials have said that the shutdown is an illegal act and have stated its firm belief that the camp needs to remain open. The Somali ambassador to the US, Ahmed Awad, said that the closure is “logically impractical” and that “Kenyans and Somalis have developed closeness throughout the years.” A Somali and member of a Dadaab business association at one of the five camps, Bashir Abdikarir stated that “The government of Kenya is going to destroy this region if they close all camps and repatriate refugees.” He reiterated the importance of the camp through the lenses of economy: “Most businesses here are run by refugees.” Along with obvious effects on the surrounding economy, the closing of Dadaab will also have affect immigration into Europe and other African countries if the camp closes down in February.