Minnesota Delegation Urges State Department to Prevent the Closure of the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, the Largest Refugee Camp in the World

Jun 16, 2016

The Minnesota congressional delegation urged the U.S. Department of State to prevent the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world. Nearly 350,000 Somali refugees who were displaced by war call the refugee camp in Kenya home. The closure may worsen the security situation throughout the Horn of Africa, as closing the camps would force their residents to repatriate to Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea—countries that lack the necessary infrastructure to handle a sudden population influx. In a bipartisan letter to Secretary Kerry, the Minnesota lawmakers highlighted the harmful impacts the close of the refugee camp would have in East Africa and on the lives of thousands of refugees.

“The involuntary repatriation of more than 350,000 refugees is a violation of international law that would cause a humanitarian crisis counterproductive to regional stability,” the lawmakers wrote. “We have already begun hearing significant concerns from our Somali-American constituents and there is growing concern among the community of the harmful impacts the closure of the refugee camp will have in East Africa. We respectfully urge you to work with the United Nations and regional partners to prevent the closure of Dadaab, an action that would threaten the lives of thousands of refugees.”

The full text of the letter the lawmakers sent is below:

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We write to express our serious concern regarding the recent announcement that the Kenyan government plans to close the Dadaab refugee camp. We thank for your recent statement calling on the Kenyan government to continue its support for refugees and respectfully request that you work to prevent the closure of this camp. The involuntary repatriation of more than 350,000 refugees is a violation of international law that would cause a humanitarian crisis counterproductive to regional stability.

Dadaab refugee complex is considered the world's largest refugee camp. Nearly 350,000 Somali refugees who were displaced by war call it home. Overcrowded and chronically underfunded, these refugee camps are now home to three generations of refugees. For decades, Kenya has experienced a protracted refugee situation, as international refugee organizations have struggled to meet the needs of displaced populations. 

Last year, the Kenyan government also threatened to close Dadaab in the wake of the al-Shabaab attack on Garissa University College. International pressure, including from the U.S. Department of State, and an infusion of humanitarian funding convinced the Kenyan government that the camp should remain open.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s most recent commitment to close Dadaab was accompanied by the dismantling of its Department of Refugee Affairs. Should Kenya continue to follow through with the closure, it would threaten the lives of thousands of refugees. It may also worsen the security situation throughout the Horn of Africa, as closing the camps would force their residents to repatriate to Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea - countries that lack the necessary infrastructure to handle a sudden population influx.

We have already begun hearing significant concerns from our Somali-American constituents and there is growing concern among the community of the harmful impacts the closure of the refugee camp will have in East Africa.

We respectfully urge you to work with the United Nations and regional partners to prevent the closure of Dadaab, an action that would threaten the lives of thousands of refugees.

Please keep us informed of progress toward addressing this issue.

Sincerely,