A Little Bit About Those Refugee Camps in Kenya

by baldilocks

With two Somali-Americans – Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) and Sports Illustrated “swimsuit” model Halima Aden — being in the news of late, I think it’s important to dispense some information about a singular part of their backgrounds.

Both spent their childhoods in Kenyan refugee camps.

If you recall, the last time a person whose lineage was from that part of the world became famous, a lot of made-up information (read: lies) was spread around and, over a decade later, I still see some of it. Therefore, I’d like to get out a little ahead of information on the refugee camps, or, at least run alongside of it.

I don’t intend for this to be any kind of expose on the camps — kind of difficult to do anything like that from my living room in Los Angeles — nor is this an opinion piece about the women. I’ve made my opinions about Omar plain, and, as for Aden’s SI hijab-burkini debut, I’m agnostic on the topic other than the fact that I think that swimming in full hijab might be dangerous. Also, she seems like a nice young lady.

My only purpose here is to provide accurate information available from open sources about the camps .

From World of Camps:

The Dadaab refugee camp complex is situated in northeastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia. Until early 2017, it consisted of five refugee camps. However, one of the camps, Kambioos, which was also the newest, was recently closed as refugees began returning to Somalia and the few remaining moved into the other camps.

Dadaab was established in the year 1991 following the beginning of the civil war in Somalia. Somalis were forced to flee as the war worsened, leaving to neighbouring countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The Dadaab Complex consists of five smaller camps: Dagahaley, Hagadera, Ifo, Ifo II and Kambioos. The latter two camps were opened in 2011 when more Somalians fled their country to escape drought and subsequent famine.

Who manages and funds these camps? Why, the UN, of course. Its Twitter feed is here. And there are many more foreign agencies involved.

Kenya has been trying to shut down this complex and repatriate its inhabitants since 2013.

From Kenya’s Daily Nation:

[T]he camp situated in Garissa county has been the centre of protracted negotiations between the Kenya government, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Somalia.

This will be the fourth attempt to close it.

In 2013, the three parties had signed a tripartite agreement to source funds, prepare the ground back in Somalia and facilitate the voluntary return of refugees. Those who accepted were to be given a stipend and other support.

But refugees seem to have shied away from this programme. Figures from UNHCR show that the number of refugees who left the camp on their own is more than those who went under the guided programme.

In 2014, there were about 350,000 refugees. Today, the camp hosts 210,556 refugees, of which 202,381 are from Somalia.

By their own law, the Kenyans are prohibited from simply throwing the refugees out, which is good because I suspect that they’ve had enough of the Somalis

Back to our two subject personalities.

Omar, 37, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. She and her family spent four of her childhood years in the Dadaab complex. She entered the United States in 1992 and became an American citizen in 2000.

Halima Aden. Cite.

Aden, 21, was born in a camp called Kakuma, which is not part of the Dadaab complex. It is located on the opposite end of Kenya and, therefore much further away from the Kenya-Somalia border than is Dadaab. She and her family came to America when she was six. I can only find one article mentioning her citizenship; the writer assumes that she is an American citizen.

As we know, the largest concentration of Somali refugees and Somali-Americans in the USA is in Minnesota, which is where both women live.

And here’s a little more opining from me: regardless of what one thinks of either woman, it is for certain that they both hit the jackpot.

ADDENDUM:

Dadaab gains a new benefactor.

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) [of Saudi Arabia] is set to open a regional relief office in Kenya that will aid refugees in the Dadaab Refugee Camp.

According to the General Supervisor of the Center Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabiah, the organization will also provide urgent food and medical assistance to Kenyans facing starvation.

He stated that last year, it distributed over 1,200 tonnes of relief food aid to the Dadaab refugees after the UN cut funding and food aid ratio for the 3 refugee camps of Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley. [Ed note: It appears that there are more camps in the complex than are named in some sources. JAO]

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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