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Kakuma Camp: As Refugees Move Out, Thieves Move in
June 12, 2008
By Joanne Offer
|Children on their way home from school stop to play in one of the abandoned houses. Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC|
|Joanne Offer is in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. I had little idea what to expect as I took a tiny 15-seater plane up to the very north of Kenya. But you can't miss the massive Kakuma refugee camp, which sprawls out into the harsh dry landscape in all directions. UNHCR estimates suggest that around 53,000 refugees still live in the camp, having fled from a range of nearby countries including Sudan, Uganda, and Somalia. (Although the numbers did reach more than 90,000 around two years ago.) The recent drop in population is due to tens of thousands of Sudanese making their way back home. While this repatriation is good news for those heading home, it's creating a new problem in Kakuma. The empty houses abandoned by the Sudanese are providing shelter for armed thieves who've been attacking the remaining refugees and stealing their property. As you travel through the middle of the camp and see empty house after empty house, you get a real sense of the scale of the repatriation and of how these standing buildings could provide cover for thieves. Work to knock down these houses has already begun and it's hoped that the camp will be consolidated, bringing the remaining refugees closer together and into a more secure environment.|