Kenya’s announcement earlier this month that it planned to shut down its refugee camps may have seemed sudden to outsiders, but it was no surprise to the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma, two of world’s largest refugee camps.
In Dadaab, in northeast Kenya, many believe the authorities have long been trying to make life more difficult as a way to encourage refugees to return home.
“The way things have been going on, it was clear to us that we are being pushed to the wall,” says Abdullahi Osman, one of Dadaab’s refugee leaders. “We are not surprised to hear of the closure of the camp. We have already felt the burn.”
Over the last few years, for instance, there have been up to 50% cuts to food rations, healthcare has deteriorated, and the shelters in this isolated arid region have remained poor.
When Kenya announced the shutdown of camps, it also officially disbanded the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA), a key partner with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in running the day-to-day activities of the settlements. However, refugees say that DRA services were already sporadic.