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Kenya Wants To Shut Down Africa's Largest Refugee Camp

The Kenyan government has asked the United Nations to close the Dadaab refugee camp and relocate some 500,000 Somalis.

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The camp, set up in 1991 to host civilians caught in Somalia's civil war, is believed by Kenyan authorities to be a breeding ground for al-Shabaab militants. Located an hour's drive from the border town of Garissa, where militants slaughtered almost 150 college students earlier this month, the camp is estimated to house some 600,000 refugees.

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto told the BBC that after the Garissa University attack, the country's security is top priority.

"We must secure this country at whatever cost. Even if we lose business with Somalia, so be it," he said.

Ruto reportedly gave the UNHCR, the U.N.'s refugee agency, three months to shut down the camp and relocate its residents to an alternative site.

But Emmanuel Nyabera, a UNHCR spokesman, told Reuters his organization is yet to receive a formal eviction notice from the Kenyan government.

Experts, however, have questioned the feasibility of repatriating hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been living in Dadaab for years. Macharia Munene, a professor of international relations at USIU-Africa, told Reuters it would be a "tall order."


In addition to its intention to close the Dadaab camp, the Kenyan government has also started building a protective wall along its entire 440 mile border with Somalia, in an attempt to stave off al-Shabaab insurgents.

On April 2, al-Shabaab militants killed 148 students in an attack on a college located in the town of Garissa. Ruto told the BBC the massacre had a profound effect on the entire country.

"The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa."

Kenyan authorities believe the camp is a breeding ground for the militants. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described it as a "breathing ground."

Felipe Araujo is the overnight homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

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