The government’s plan to transition the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps into integrated settlements has received a major boost with the allocation of over Ksh28 billion ($199.71 million) to the project.
The five-year transition plan, dubbed the Shirika Plan, aims to transform the refugee camps into integrated settlements for both refugees and host communities, with a view to making refugees self-reliant and contributing to the economy.
While urging Kenya to fully implement the plan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, yesterday said the amount has been mobilised by various development partners for the Shirika Plan, which he described as a progressive solution to the refugee crisis in the country.
“It is crucial that the Shirika Plan is fully implemented soon and in terms of refugee rights, documentation, freedom of movement and so on. I am glad that the rest of the UN agencies are on board with the government’s plan to make the Shirika Plan a reality, we estimate that we have already mobilised over Ksh28 billion in support of this plan,” said Mr Filippo as he called for more donor support for the plan, saying the burden should not be left to Kenya alone.
He also noted Kenya’s key role in ending conflict in several parts of the continent, and how it and other African countries have kept their borders open to those fleeing violence to provide safety and support to refugees.
“We know how challenging this can be and has been, we thank you for upholding not only your legal obligations but also your humanity,” he said.
Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi added that the World Bank had pledged a Ksh7 billion ($49.93 million) grant for Kakuma and Kalobeyei communities in Turkana County.
“In addition, the World Bank, through the Ministry of Education and the Department of Refugee Services, is supporting the joint implementation of the Kenya Primary Education Equity Learning, which will benefit 117,000 refugees and host communities,” he said.
Mudavadi noted that a global shift in refugee management is leading host countries to turn host communities into refugee settlements to reduce dependence on humanitarian aid.
“Kenya cannot afford to be an exception to this trend. I would like to reiterate the government’s commitment to transforming refugee camps into integrated settlements. By promoting the socio-economic integration of refugees, we are collectively preparing them for eventual voluntary repatriation to their home countries,” he said.
However, he hinted that Nairobi remains open to receiving new refugees, most of whom are from neighbouring Somalia, followed by South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“We have recently reopened our border with the Republic of Somalia and established three border posts to serve as entry points. These will serve not only business, trade and tourism interests but also genuine asylum seekers,” said the Prime Minister.
US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman noted that during her visit to the Dadaab refugee camp a few weeks ago, she witnessed a large population of over 370,000 refugees, likening it to the size of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio.
“The importance of the Kenyan government and its unwavering generosity to the region and the wider African continent cannot be overstated. There are citizens from over 20 countries who are now in Kenya under the protection of the government,” she said.
The world marked Refugee Day at a time when more than 100 million people have been displaced by political divisions, climate emergencies, economic turmoil, raging and unrelenting violence, conflict and persecution in their home countries, and 35 million others have fled across borders, relying on the protection and hospitality of host countries to survive and rebuild their lives.
Immigration and Citizenship PS Prof Julius Bitok said Kenya is currently hosting over 600,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers in the two major camps in Turkana and Garissa counties and over 94,000 others in major cities including Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret.
Kenya marked World Refugee Day yesterday in Nairobi with a high-level forum attended by UN agencies, international financial institutions including the World Bank, members of the diplomatic community, donor partners and key private sector partners.