In is home to over 280,000 refugees most of

In May 2016 the Kenya government announced its intention to
close Dadaab refugee camp by the end of 2017. Dadaab, the world’s largest
refugee camp is home to over 280,000 refugees most of whom are Somalis, (UHNCR
2016). Majority of them have lived in the camp for decades, with second, third
and fourth generation Somalis being born in the camp.

In making the announcement, the government of Kenya made it
clear that it intended to return Somali refugees to Somalia citing economic
burden and insecurity as the camp serves as a breeding ground for terror groups
(Kenya Daily Nation, 2017). While Kenya has maintained, for a number of years,
that it wants to see the closure of the camps and the repatriation of the
Somali refugees, recent pronouncements and policy actions have reflected a
hardening stance by the government to make good of the threat. The extremely
tight timeframe and lack of any alternative options for Somali refugees has
left open the prospect of large-scale forced returns to Somalia, a country still
riven by armed conflict. According to Amnesty International (2016), such
returns would violate international law including the principle of
non-refoulement, and would constitute a serious violation of the human rights
of the refugees. 

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Since the May 2016 pronouncement, the Kenyan government has
put increased pressure on refugees to return to Somalia, through a ‘voluntary’
repatriation process. Voluntary repatriation had previously been agreed under a
Tripartite Agreement between the governments of Kenya and Somalia and UNHCR,
signed in 2013 (UNHCR 2016). While the UN and some government statements still
speak of “voluntary” returns, this is not possible under the current
circumstances where some individuals and groups clearly face risks and
vulnerabilities.

The government of Kenya has offered no alternatives for
refugees living in Dadaab who do not want to go to Somalia. The government’s
intentions are clear. The announcement that Dadaab would close was swiftly
followed by the disbandment of the Department of Refugee Affairs and the
appointment of a taskforce to lead the repatriation process. The taskforce
includes a National Multi-Agency Repatriation Team and the Operational Refugee
Repatriation Team, based in Dadaab, with reporting lines leading to the National
Security Council, (Amnesty International, 2016). This makes it evident that the
government of Kenya is bent on sending the refugees back to their war-torn
country and such returns are not likely to be voluntary.  In an effort to coerce people to make what
could be passed off as a voluntary return, government officials have told
refugees in Dadaab that if they do not go back before the deadline they risk
not getting the financial support package of US$400, (UNHCR 2016).

This paper will endeavour to inform the government of Kenya and
other stakeholders of the most viable solution to the refugee crisis in Kenya. Rather
than continuing to support myopic deals aimed at curbing migratory flows in
Africa, the paper will also endeavour to list longer term sustainable solutions
for the Somali refugees that the International Community and the Kenya
Government should embrace, including opportunities to integrate into host
communities and significantly increased resettlement places to meaningfully
share responsibility with Kenya.

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