Posted by BERNARD MOMANYI on July 21, 2011
NAIROBI, Kenya July 21 â€“ Kenya has now petitioned the African Union (AU) to step in and start relocating refugees in camps at the North Eastern Province to other countries to ease the congestion.
Assistant Minister for Internal Security Orwa Ojode told journalists on Thursday that the camps in Kenya were too congested and may soon be unable to take any more refugees.
“We have asked the AU to assist relocate the refugees to another country because our camps are becoming too congested,” he said.
“This country can be Uganda, Tanzania or any other country like Britain.”
He said the government was also appealing to the international community to start building schools and providing food to refugees in Somaliland “instead of sitting and watching as they walk hundreds of kilometers to Kenya.”
“It is very unfortunate because many of them are even dying on their way. It is better to find a sustainable solution that can arrest the situation before it deteriorates and this includes getting them [refugees] to be in camps within Somali land where they can be able to be given food and other amenities which they come to look for here in Kenya,” he said, adding that lately “refugees are no longer fleeing war, they are fleeing hunger.”
Mr Ojode said the influx of refugees at the Kenyan side of the border was worsening by the day because there are at least 11,000 refugees crossing the border monthly.
“Despite the fact that we recently opened another camp Ifo II, the crisis is still there because even this camp will get congested very soon. It is a crisis that is very real,” he added.
He spoke moments after Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua announced that Kenya was also appealing to the international community to consider opening camps in Somaliland to be able to cater for the high number of refugees trooping into the country daily.
Dr Mutua said failure to open camps in Somaliland was impacting negatively to the Somali refugees fleeing hunger because many of them are dying while trekking hundreds of kilometers to Kenya.
“We are appealing to the international community to consider opening camps in Somaliland. This will save the Somali people from trekking to Kenyan camps. Women and children are dying before they could even get to the camps at the Kenyan side,” Dr Mutua said.
He also appealed to the international community to consider having planes which will be dropping food to the refugees walking hundreds of kilometers from Somali to ensure they don’t die of hunger on the way.
“These people are not fleeing war anymore, they are fleeing hunger and if there is a way they can fed on their way, It is better because it will save lives.
“Food can be dropped to them from aircrafts as they walk to the Kenyan camps from Somalia,” he added during a weekly briefing Thursday.
He said the move would even help the refugees walking many kilometers to Kenya to abandon their journey and go back to their country because they are fleeing hunger not war.
He said camps in Kenya were congested and the continued influx would soon degenerate into a crisis that cannot be handled by authorities here.
“The influx of refugees is just too high, thousands of women and children are trekking to Kenya and our camps are getting stretched.”
“If the refugees can be fed on the other side before they get here it will help a lot because no one wants to be a refugee.”
“People do not have to wait to reach Kenya to eat, aircrafts should be used to drop food to them so that they can get to eat before they get here,”he said.
“The border between Kenya and Somalia will continue to be closed due to security issues. However, no Somali refugee has been barer from entering Kenya,” he added.
Statistics released by the Assistant Minister for Internal Security Mr Ojode indicate that Kenya is hosting a total of 514,767 refugees spread across various camps and towns in the country.
The newly opened Ifo camp in Lagdera district has 133,921 refugees, Dagahley in Leader district has 123,385 while Lagdera in Fafi district has 122,461.
Kakuma in Turkana district hosts 85,000 while some 10,000 others live in Nairobi, mainly in Eastleigh. Other towns in the country have 40,000 others.