The Dilemma of Hosting Refugees: A Focus on the Insecurity in North-Eastern Kenya
Prof. Mwaruvie, John
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Physical security is paramount if any country is to progress both politically and economically. This article examines the problem of physical insecurity in Dadaab refugee camps in Northeastern Kenya in the last two decades (1991-2011).The three camps of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera accommodated an approximate of 300,000 refugees as of July 2009, a number that far exceeds its capacity of 90,000 refugees. The recent influx of economic refugees fleeing from famine and Al shabaab stricken Somalia has further pushed the number to 470,000 refugees as of January 2012.These camps have had several cases of reported and unreported violence since its inception in 1991.As of July 2009, Dadaab refugee camp has remained the largest in the world. These camps are dominated by Somali refugees who depend on livestock keeping for their livelihood. Despite the Government of Kenya(GoK) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees( UNHCR’s) effort to promote security in and around Dadaab refugee camps, the problem seem to be deeply rooted hence calling for attention from the government, the academia and the general public concerned with peaceful coexistence in society. It is argued that refugee settlement impacts on physical security not only in and around the camps, but even nationally and internationally. It reveals that the security dynamics in a refugee settlement are complex because of the spillover effects from refugees’ home countries and the varied interests of both UNHCR, as a refugee agency, and host government as a law enforcement agency. It reveals that refugees and the host community often conflict over resources, systems of governance and other varied interests. Citing examples across the world, it argues that refugee-hosting countries have always found themselves in the dilemma of hosting refugees as a humanitarian gesture and that of endangering their national security due to refugee security dynamics. Relating to Kenya’s case that hosts the largest refugee camp in the world, it argues that this poses a serious national security to Kenya. Given the proximity of the porous Kenya-Somalia border, the similar features of Somalis of Kenya and those of Somalia (which makes it difficult to differentiate them),it is indeed difficult to monitor and screen the influx of refugees into Dadaab refugee camp. This poses a major security threat to the host community. The Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia in pursuit of Al shaabab could have been greatly contributed by these refugee security dynamics-some combatants posing as refugees threatening the national security of host countries.