Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kenya gets land for new refugee camp

Immigration PS Emmanuel Kisombe. He has said that the government has acquired 2,000 acres of land to build a refugee camp in Northern Kenya. Photo/FILE

Immigration PS Emmanuel Kisombe. He has said that the government has acquired 2,000 acres of land to build a refugee camp in Northern Kenya. Photo/FILE 

By LUCAS BARASA

The Kenya Government has acquired 2,000 hectares of land for the construction of a new refugee camp to assist in decongestion of Dadaab-the world’s biggest.

The land in northern Kenya was donated by Fafi residents, Immigration and Registration of Persons permanent secretary Emmanuel Kisombe said on Wednesday.

Accompanied by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Kenya Liz Ahua, official Peter Kusimba and director of immigration Albert Musasia, Mr Kisombe said the construction of a new camp will aid in decongestion.

Located 90 kilometres from Kenya’s border with Somalia, the three camps at Dadaab host about 300,000 refugees although they were meant to host 90,000.

The new camp is meant to host some of the refugees whose number has been growing as 5,000 new arrivals fleeing from fighting in Somalia arrive in Dadaab each month.

Some 12,000 refugees are also currently being moved from Dadaab to Kakuma.

Dadaab has since been named by UNHCR as facing the worst crisis globally and in need improved infrastructure, including water distribution networks and expanded services such as health and education.

Mr Kisombe, who inaugurated a 12-member refugee affairs committee as per the requirement of the Refugees Act, said much needed to be done by the international community to protect refugees.

He said measures have been put in place to ensure the Al-Shabaab militias and other terrorists groups did not take advantage of Somalis fleeing the fighting to also enter the country.

“We have security to ensure that anybody entering the country is well screened. Although the border is closed we have international obligation to accept refugees. It is our responsibility to ensure security is not compromised,” Mr Kisombe said.

The refugee affairs committee, headed by Mr Phares Ratego, draws membership from various ministries and is to assist in management of refugee affairs including protection and policy formulation.

In a speech read on his behalf by Mr Kisombe, Immigration and Registration of Persons minister Otieno Kajwang said both national interests and international obligations have to be considered in management of refugees.

Mr Ratego said the refugee crisis had put a major strain on local and international resources and that a comprehensive strategy is needed to address it.

He said the needs of hosts communities should also be considered to avoid conflicts with the refugees.

He said his team, which has a three year but renewable mandate will help address water, health, food, sanitation and environmental challenges affecting the refugees and host communities.

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