Somali refugee crisis: Kenya’s opening of camp extension only a first step

Kenya and the international community must take further steps to address the needs of Somali refugees, Amnesty International said today, as Kenyan authorities agreed to extend a refugee camp in the north-eastern town of Dadaab.Some 1,300 refugees are crossing into Kenya daily from Somalia, fleeing conflict and the region’s worst drought in 60 years. The Kenyan authorities announced on Thursday that the Ifo II camp, which will accommodate up to 80,000 people, will open within 10 days.“While Kenya’s decision to open the camp extension will temporarily ease overcrowding in the Dadaab camps, it needs to be followed up with a swift agreement on opening another camp“, said Benedicte Goderiaux, Amnesty International’s Somalia researcher.“Kenya bears the lion’s share of responsibility worldwide for hosting Somali refugees.  The international community should not only support the humanitarian response to the current crisis, it must also step in to provide lasting solutions to Somali refugees in Kenya. ” she added.The new camp is an extension of Ifo, one of three refugee camps in Dadaab.Built in the mid-1990s to host 90,000 people, the Dadaab complex is now the largest refugee camp in the world, with almost 380,000 refugees. Newly arrived refugees are forced to live in the open, on the outskirts of the camps, with no easy access to water.For the past two years UNHCR has been pushing Kenya to complete and open the extension camp. But the Kenyan government, which had expressed concerns that Somali armed groups could enter the country and create insecurity, ended work on it earlier this year Following a meeting with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres on Monday, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenya could not turn away refugees.At least 10 million people are said to be affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa.

This page has been updated to reflect the latest population figures from UNHCR (18 July, 2011)