News24

Kenya urged to open new refugee camp

2011-07-11 23:00

Nairobi - The Oxfam aid agency urged Kenya on Monday to allow the use of a new camp to decongest the world's biggest refugee settlement in the east of the country where hundreds are pouring in daily.

The new camp, Ifo II, can accommodate 40 000 refugees and was completed last year but the government has refused to allow its use.

Oxfam appealed to Kenya to "heed the UN refugee agency's call to open the camp and take quick action to ensure people have access to aid", a statement said.

Kenya is wary of the security threat posed by Somali insurgents and fears that some rebels can find their way into the camps.

Due to a severe drought that has hit the region, around 1 400 Somalis are streaming into the Dadaab refugee complex daily.

"Ifo II remains empty as the government of Kenya has refused to allow people to move in," the aid group said, adding that 60 000 new arrivals were living in basic tents outside the camp boundaries.

"It is tragic that vulnerable families are trapped in limbo, forced to endure appalling conditions while there are fully functioning services right next door. Their basic needs are being ignored," said Joost van de Lest, head of Oxfam in Kenya.

The Dadaab refugee camp was set up in 1991 with a capacity of 90 000, but currently hosts more than four times that number.

At the weekend, Sex and the City star and Oxfam's ambassador Kristin Davis of the United States visited Dadaab and appealed for help.

"I feel shocked to see what these people have gone through. I met women who have walked for 20 days through the desert, with children dying on the way, only to arrive at a camp where there is hardly any food and water to go around," Davis said.

"We must not allow this to happen in this day and age. Anything that you can give will help people who have absolutely nothing."