Address plight of refugees in Dadaab

Daadab refugee camp

Tents in Dadaab refugee camp on July 24, 2011.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Refugees are ordinary human beings living in foreign countries. They are found all over the world. They are treated well in some countries, but refugees in Dadaab camps, in Garissa County, live in the worst of conditions.

 They have been living and continue to live in open-air prisons called camps for over three decades. They are technically held incommunicado and cannot reach Garissa for medical attention, education, business or social visits. The conditions are pathetic and congested.

We cannot access media outlets and human rights organisations. Most refugees in the world enjoy the privileges of free movement and integration into local communities.

However, refugees living in these sprawling encampments must be the world’s most forgotten and voiceless. Nobody seems to know we exist, let alone address our plight. The hosts, including the public and politicians, don’t seem to know our predicament. We are helpless.

Every five years, Kenyans go to the polls to elect their leaders while we’re ignored. The media technically refused to highlight and inform the world of our challenges. We have languished in these camps for decades.

The UNHCR does its best for us, even funds vital projects our sake. However, it’s advancement of refugee rights is hampered by the bureaucracies of the Kenya government which is handcuffed by xenophobia and racism.

The Garissa government only comes to the camps to collect taxes from our business stalls without offering a single service to refugees. The government had issued us with alien identity cards, which are useless since we cannot use them to venture outside. There is a deafening and devastating silence by the media - a blackout of sorts.

The media has technically refused to be our voice. Human rights organisations and civil society groups have also failed us deliberately and this is due to several factors, including the remoteness of our camps and deliberate marginalisation by the Kenyan government.

Every year, World Refugee Day celebrations are commemorated in the camps with zero media coverage in print, broadcast and online media. We don’t know when we shall have a voice through the media so that our problems can be resolutely addressed.

We appreciate and acknowledge the coverage by a local Somali vernacular FM station. It is our only connection to the outside world and cannot imagine how our lives would have been without their coverage. We have even communicated with the Media Council of Kenya and the Kenya Human Rights Commission in vain.

If you study and scrutinise global refugee trends and diverse living conditions, you would

sadly discover that there is no such endemic confinements and movement restrictions like in Dadaab camp. The status quo is unacceptable. I appeal to all human rights organisations, the media, civil society groups, the Judiciary, Legislature and the Executive in Kenya to help the refugees from Dadaab be visible and free to move around the country.

I hope and pray that President William Ruto’s government would be more sympathetic and humane by allowing us to integrate and move freely in Kenya to pursue socio-economic activities.

Hussein Ahmed Ali, Dadaab