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Kenya ‘Overwhelmed’ By Refugee Influx

Somali refugees wait outside the UNHCR registration center in the Eastern Kenyan village of Hagadera near Dadaab, 100 kms (60 miles) from the Somali border, August 12, 2011

Deputy internal affairs minister Orwa Ojode said his government has asked international humanitarian relief agencies to open offices in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, following the unexpected withdrawal of hard-line insurgent group, al-Shabab.

“We are receiving about 1,500 to 2,000 people crossing from Somalia border to Dadaab [Kenya]…Right now, the population is huge and it is a worrying trend for us in terms of the relief supplies, medicine and security,” said Ojode.

Kenya suggests that having a presence in the Somali capital will enable the relief agencies to better serve famine-stricken rural areas nearby.

“We have even petitioned the NGO’s and our international donors who are assisting the supply of relief that it is important for them to have a permanent camp within Somalia,” said Ojode.

He said Kenya is overwhelmed by the influx.

Ojode said Nairobi asked the African Union to construct a new refugee camp inside Somalia, which Ojode said could be located about four kilometers from its border with Kenya.

Kenya has built three camps for Somali refugees in Dadaab but has refused to expand them or build more. The government contends the camps lead to environmental degradation and other problems within Kenya.

“The security issue is a concern, and we have beefed up the number of officers from the security personnel. And we are trying to keep watch before we relocate [refugees] to Somalia,” said Ojode.

Northern Kenya is also experiencing food shortages due to the drought, which has affected the Horn of Africa. But Ojode said Kenya’s government has taken measures to combat the crisis.

“The government had given [over $215,490, or 20,000,000 Kenyan shillings] for the purchase of biometric registration equipment in order for us to be able to vet and register the refugees,” said Ojode. “The issue is getting out of hand because those who are not refugees are registering or want to register in order to get refugee status.”

Meanwhile, The U.N. World Food Program says it is investigating the alleged theft of relief aid brought into famine-stricken Somalia. The U.N. says more than 12 million people across the Horn of Africa are in need of food, including more than three million in Somalia, the epicenter of the drought.