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Africa’s immigration tragedy: heading into the abyss

Africa currently has 14.7 million displaced people and 7.3 million refugees, and the numbers are growing. The causes are more acute in areas such as the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is controlled by guerrilla factions, militia and criminal groups.

 

Julio Morejón

 

Sub-Saharan Africa houses more than 26% of the world’s refugees, while Uganda takes in the largest number across the entire continent, with 1.2 million coming mostly from South Sudan.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 70.8 million people left their homes in 2018 due to the threat of conflict and persecution, with the worst cases seen in Asia and Africa. Almost 30 million refugees were concentrated on these two continents alone, with more than half of them being minors – children and teenagers under 18. Many of these made it to refugee reception centres unaccomp

anied by adult family members, which poses an additional problem, humanitarian organisations emphasise.

For the UN, refugees are people recognised as forced migrants, persecuted for their believes, race, or victims of armed conflict or natural disaster, as indicated in the 1951 Refugee Convention (otherwise known as the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees). According to the convention, refugees include people that emigrate because their habitat no longer guarantees their livelihood.

In the case of the African continent, migration caused by escalations of violence due to war, terrorism and/or disputes between communities is a common occurrence.

These are not the only causes, however; climate change is another important factor.

During the last five years, the crises in the Sub-Saharan region, including South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, have led to over 15 million people being displaced, many of whom were taken in by neighbouring countries in coordination with humanitarian organisations.

The lack of water resources and declining areas of grassland are also factors that lead to migration, which is not always a safe option, neither for the individual or their family. Even in the refugee camps themselves, they are registered accordingly, but nobody can guarantee their total survival.

Until last June, 300,000 people were forced to flee this region. It was reported that over 7,500 Congolese people abandoned the country to seek refuge in Uganda due to the escalated ethnic violence between the Hema and Lendu groups. According to the media, the majority of migrants escaped via Lake Albert from the province of Ituri.

Most of the displaced people accepted by Uganda come from South Sudan, where years of war have resulted in an enormous wave of migrants heading to neighbouring countries. Others travelled to Sudan and Ethiopia, but the authorities in Kampala were the first to deal with the issue with “open borders”.

Though the country itself is considered to be poor, Uganda is estimated to take in the largest refugee population in Africa.

In June, the UNHCR reported that the transit and reception facilities in Uganda were “overwhelmed” by the arrival of Congolese refugees, “placing strain on already badly overstretched facilities”. The reception centre in Kagoma, for example, currently houses “some 4,600 new arrivals”, even though it has an intended capacity of 3,000.

The African continent is also home to the Dadaab refugee centre in Kenya, the biggest in the world, where the majority of the population consists of Somalians that have fled war and the resulting instability in the country. These Somalian refugees have been living in the camp since the 1990s, when Mohamed Siad Barre’s government collapsed.

According to the UNHCR, the three refugee camps in Dadaab house over 463,000 refugees, though it is difficult to get an exact figure, given that many leave as new migrants arrive. The most complex part of the situation, however, is that the Kenyan government plans to close the camp, considering it a threat to national security.

The authorities in Nairobi do not rule out the fact that the camp is a focal point for forces from the Somalian organisation al-Shabaab, which also operates against Kenya. The organisation accuses the country of having soldiers in the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which backs the Mogadishu government.

Despite all this, there were 212,936 refugees in Dadaab, and 191,500 and 74,758 in the urban settlements of Kakuma and Kalobeyei at the end of July 2019, according to the UNHCR. In August alone, the camp saw 1,454 new arrivals. (PL)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: lucy.daghorn@gmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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