DADAAB, KENYA: Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was spending her 19th birthday yesterday visiting the world’s largest refugee camp to draw attention to the global refugee crisis, especially as Dadaab camp faces pressure to close after a quarter-century. Since last year, Malala has been in contact via Skype with a group of girls in Dadaab and was looking forward to meeting them and others, said Taylor Royle, her spokesman.
“I am here to speak for my unheard sisters of Somalia striving for education every day,” Malala said yesterday, explaining that on each birthday she chooses a region where girls’ education is neglected and needs attention. Kenya’s government says Dadaab camp, which hosts more than 300,000 mostly Somali refugees, will be closed in the next year because it has become a security liability. The camp is in eastern Kenya, near its border with Somalia.
The possibility that the camp will be closed brings yet more uncertainty to the refugees, who face the prospect of returning to a Somalia still plagued with conflict. Kenya insists any returns will be voluntary, even as the international community has urged caution and warned against forceful evictions.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has said repatriations from Dadaab will be done in a humane way. Many of Dadaab’s refugees have lived most if not all their lives in the sprawling camp, which has been open for 25 years and is a vast settlement of established homes and newcomers’ improvised huts of thorn branches and other materials. — AP