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Washington, D.C. -- Refugees International (RI) is urging the Kenyan government to resume registration of Somali refugees fleeing drought and persecution in Somalia. Kenya's decision to suspend registration last October has forced many refugees into desperate circumstances and made the volatile security situation in Kenya's refugee camps even worse.
"Without registration, refugee families can't get full access to the assistance they need," said RI Senior Advocate Melanie Teff, who recently visited Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp - the largest such camp in the world. "The aid workers we spoke to told us that many of the refugees who arrived after registration stopped are in very bad shape. Many are weakened by months of malnutrition, while others have been abused by criminal actors. And without proper shelters, some have been forced to live on the outskirts of the camps, where they increasingly face sexual abuse."
Since the unregistered refugees can't get aid on their own, they are relying on other refugee families for help – this at a time when non-essential delivery of aid to Dadaab has been restricted for security reasons. Kenya's decision to halt registration was part of a security effort to restrict members of Al-Shabaab from taking residence in the camp. Since that time however, the security situation in Dadaab has deteriorated - and the lack of registration is contributing to the problem, according to Mark Yarnell, RI's advocate for the Horn of Africa.
"No registration means no security screenings to identify those who might threaten camp residents, police, and aid workers," Mr. Yarnell said. "We believe it is in Kenya’s own security interests to re-open registration. In fact, there should be a wider re-verification of all camp residents, and the international community must provide the necessary funding for that."
Next week, world leaders - including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - will gather in London for a major international conference on Somalia. The Kenyan government should use this opportunity to announce changes to its registration policy, and to outline a comprehensive, humane plan to restore security to Somali refugee camps within its territory.
Refugees International is a Washington DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, please go to www.refugeesinternational.org.