Kenya to set aside land to establish a new refugee camp for Somalis

News Stories, 6 February 2009

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Makeshift shelters and new tents at Ifo Camp in Dadaab late last year. The camp has almost reached saturation level.

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 6 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Friday that the Kenyan government has agreed to allocate land to accommodate the increasing numbers of Somali refugees who are fleeing to north-eastern Kenya to escape the escalating conflict in their country.

The commitment came during a three-day visit to Kenya by Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Craig Johnstone, who arrived back in Geneva on Friday. In a meeting earlier this week with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Johnstone received a firm commitment that the government would provide land for establishment of a new refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya to take the pressure off the sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex.

Dadaab, which was designed for 90,000 people, now has a population of about a quarter of a million, making it one of the world's largest and most congested refugee sites. Johnstone warned that the camp was now at breaking point.

UNHCR and local Kenyan authorities have identified and surveyed 2,000 hectares of land in Fafi, in Garissa District, south of Dadaab. The agency estimates the site could host 50,000 people. Johnstone pledged that the new camp will be an environmental model, which will carefully balance the demands of the refugees and the locals.