Monday October 3, 2016
Somali refugees at Daadab Camp on June 16, 2016 pack their luggage in a bus headed for Somalia. There are Kenyans posing as refugees in the camp. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
A United Nations headcount of asylum seekers has confirmed that thousands of Kenyans with proper identification documents live in Dadaab camp as refugees.
In the population verification programme conducted this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found these Kenyans live in the complex, registered as refugees.
“A total of 24,655 individuals confessed to be Kenyans registered as refugees,” says a report by the commissioner published last week.
It adds: “In another 3,355 households (15,799 individuals), at least one member has applied for or holds a Kenyan ID card. The number of individuals identified as “double registered” or impacted by “double registration” therefore totals 40,454”.
The findings confirm an estimate earlier published by the agency in July when it said up to 42,000 Kenyans were living at Dadaab under false pretences.
At the time, the agency said this group will either be relocated or reintegrated with local communities as part of its effort to decongest the camp.
The UN findings mean that up to 40,000 ‘refugees’ at Dadaab cannot be repatriated under the ongoing project to voluntarily return all Somali refugees at the camp to their homeland and shut it down altogether.Dadaab camp has been a subject of sustained campaign by the government to close it down under suspicions that it could be acting as a conduit for terror merchants and smuggling syndicates.
They should instead be taken up by the government and relocated once the camp is closed.
Most of these Kenyans are in the camp for free and get certain food rations, water and education for their children, according to an earlier bulletin by the agency.
Dadaab, which at one time hosted nearly 600,000 refugees, currently has 276,945 people scattered in its five sub-camps of Hagdera, Dagahaley, Ifo 1, Ifo 2 and Kambios.
But in this census done between July 4 and August 10, the UN agency also found that the camp has 341,574 people who have registered as refugees but only 283,558 were present during the verification.
UNHCR did not explain what happened to this disparity but it could be because some of those registered Kenyans had left the camp at the time or the real refugees themselves had found greener pastures.
In 2013, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement to have Somali refugees relocated by the end of 2016.
Since then, 30, 349 refugees have been taken back to Somalia and resettled through this programme since December 2014, with 24, 248 going back this year.
The call for closure increased from May this year when the government allocated Sh1 billion for an urgent relocation of refugees.
UNHCR protested the move, arguing it violated the principle of voluntary return.
The UN - which has estimated the entire repatriation to cost an additional Sh10.5 billion - says 25 per cent of Somali refugees (or 69, 532 refugees) currently at Dadaab have said they are ready to go back to their homes.
A majority of them indicated they will like to resettle at Lower Juba (61 per cent followed by Bay (17 per cent), Middle Juba (9 per cent, Banadir (9 per cent), Gedo (4 per cent) and other areas (1 per cent).
Last month, the Jubbaland administration in Somalia announced it had suspended any resettling of refugees until the reintegration programmes are unified in the country.