Kenyan refugee camp offers beleaguered Somalis refuge

Camp will stay open after court order

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Illustration by Terra DeHart

The future of the lives of a quarter million Somali refugees, desperate to escape unfathomable living conditions in a country wrought with war and destitute poverty, is still in limbo despite a recent ruling from the Kenyan high court against the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp.

A decision made in May 2016 to close the Dadaab refugee camp on the border of Kenya, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, was overturned on Feb. 9. The camp is located north of Nairobi, near the border of Somalia, and is currently home to nearly 250,000 refugees. The plan to forcibly relocate thousands of refugees, many of whom are Somalis who have fled from their civil war-stricken native home, was deemed a discriminatory move targeted at Somalis. Somalis have been emigrating to Dadaab and major cities in Kenya ever since the war peaked in 1991.

In this current political climate, the decision to protect the rights of the refugees represents a necessary counteraction to recent decisions made by the Trump administration to ban travel between the United States and several countries, including those from the Dadaab refugee camp. Both the Kenyan government prior to this judge’s decision and Trump’s Executive Order 13769 cite concerns that there is an increased risk of terrorist activity from Somali people that live in Dadaab and similar refugee camps, a claim which has not been substantiated. Because of this hysteria, Somalis living in Dadaab faced a harsh reality: being forcibly located from the refugee camp and having no plan in place for where to go.

The Geneva Convention of 1994 states it is the obligation of all nations to protect the rights of refugees, and the United States has historically prioritized immigration of refugees. The Kenyan judge’s decision to overturn the closure of Dadaab refugee camp is in line with these ideals.

The Kenyan government has already appealed this decision, but if they do close the doors to this camp or continue to violate the rights of Somali refugees, they could lose financial support from other countries dedicated to the purpose of curbing this epidemic.

If the Trump administration replaces the travel ban, which was deemed unconstitutional on the grounds that it is discriminatory on religious grounds, and if the Kenyan government thwarts the decision by the judge, then this huge population of Somali refugees could find itself, again, seeking refuge elsewhere.

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