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Balance refugee aid with integration

Wednesday, May 29th, 2024 06:00 | By
Daadab Refugee Camps. PHOTO/UNHCR Website
Daadab Refugee Camps. PHOTO/UNHCR Website

There have been renewed calls to close down refugee camps in Kenya. This should be a priority for the government and other stakeholders, as this would help address deep-rooted vices that stem from those settlements.

Humanitarian agencies have said that caging refugees in camps is untenable. Their argument is that camps are meant to be a temporary transition, not permanent residence. They also say that hosting refugees in camps for a long time makes them lose hope in life. Refugees are denied freedom of movement, education, and employment opportunities. Closing the camps would allow refugees to exercise their rights fully.

Because refugee camps were initially designed as temporary solutions – though many in Kenya have existed for about three decades - prolonged stays in camps have led to over-dependence on aid, limiting refugees’ ability to become self-reliant and integrate into local communities.

Political instability that gives rise to conflicts and violence continues to displace people, with countries like Sudan regarded as the location of the largest displacement crisis globally.

As a result, Kenya continues to shoulder the burden of housing refugees even with the challenges that accompany such generosity.

The greatest issue is that refugee camps have been breeding grounds for criminal activities, including human trafficking, drug smuggling, and radicalisation. Most of the terrorist attacks in Kenya, for instance, have been traced back to the Daadab refugee complex.

Some camps are overcrowded, leading to inadequate sanitation, healthcare, and education facilities. These conditions can exacerbate health issues and contribute to social tensions as the refugees and local communities scramble for limited resources. There has also been cross-border transmission of communicable diseases like polio, curtailing Kenya’s efforts to eradicate them through immunisation.

Large-scale camps can strain local ecosystems, deplete natural resources and cause environmental degradation. Water scarcity, deforestation, and soil erosion are common challenges.

Balancing humanitarian assistance with sustainable integration and development is a complex challenge that requires the input of governments and refugee advocacy agencies.

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