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Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya © journalturk

The World’s Largest Refugee Camp May Close

The Kenyan government continues the legal fight to close Dadaab—the largest refugee camp in the world.

Claims by the Kenyan government that the Dadaab refugee camp on the border with Somalia has become a recruiting ground for terrorists have been behind the push to shut down the camp. Although the government had hoped to close Dadaab by the end of November 2016, registered refugees living there were given a six-month extension.

Dadaab opened as a temporary refuge in 1991 to some 90,000 Somalis fleeing the brutal civil war. There are currently more than 275,000 people living there—it is technically Kenya’s third largest city—many whom are under the age of 18 and have never left the camp, meaning they will be left homeless and stateless if it ceases to exist.

With elected officials, school systems and a thriving economy, Dadaab functions like a small city. The World Bank estimates that it adds $14 million to the annual Kenyan gross domestic product (GDP). Some of its inhabitants have fled violence and death to seek out a living in the camp’s ecosystem, including Shamsa Hassan Jimaale whose husband was shot and whose children were taken from her. Like many people who lost family members to the war, she was able to rebuild her life in Dadaab where she now runs her own business.

In May 2016, Kenya’s interior minister announced that the government would shut down the camp and repatriate over 340,000 refugees following the attacks on the Westgate shopping center and Garissa University by al-Shabab, a Somali terrorist organization. Since last year’s announcement, 67,000 refugees have left Dadaab, and the government hopes to have completed the removal of refugees by May 2017, despite Amnesty International’s claim there is no proof that the camp has become a recruiting ground for terrorists.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: journalturk