AlJazeera recently reported on a group of Somali youths who have spent a majority of their lives living in the worlds largest refugee camp, Daabab Camp is North Eastern region in Kenya. The Somali youth's featured in the article fled to the refugee camp at the ages of 2.
The Dadaab refugee complex, made up of three camps - Dagahaley, Ifo and Hagerdaley - was initially built as a temporary measure to house the influx of refugees in the early 1990s. But with peace in Somalia proving to be elusive, these refugees have had little choice but to remain in the camps, and make a life for themselves. For 20 years, Somalis escaping famine or war have continued to trickle into Kenya, but a devastating drought, described as the worst in decades, has sparked a new exodus. There are around 1,500 new arrivals every day. Over the past month, more than 20,000 have arrived, pushing the numbers of refugees in the complex to over 380,000 in an area designed to accommodate just 90,000. In a twist of fate, young men and women who arrived as two- and three-year-old refugees in 1991 themselves, are now in the thick of things; working as relief workers and interpreters, assisting in the documentation of new arrivals from Somalia.
Aden Abdi Ali, 22
I was two-years-old when I came here, now I am 22. The life we lead here is very challenging, but with some effort, we are able to make it. The UNHCR provides shelter and food, and these are the basic needs for life. Some people gain support from the local community and do okay ... and the UNHCR offers resettlement opportunities, to move to a developed country. And if you are lucky enough, you can be chosen to be resettled somewhere else. But I am happy to be able to help my people as they arrive. I am one of the lucky ones. Most children go to the primary schools here [in the camps] when they are six years old, but most have to leave by the eight standard, because getting into secondary school is very challenging. As a result, most of my friends, the youth I grew up with, are unemployed and suffering and struggling. Most of the youth in the camp are battling because there is little work available, and the chance of getting into college after school is extremely hard. It is very limited. Every year, one or two from the 300 graduates of the high school here get selected for higher studies.
Mohamed Yusuf Hassen, 24
I came here in 1991, with my mother and father as a refugee. The only thing I remember is my mother carrying me here.I was three years at the time and I do remember the kids that grew up with me in the same block in the camp I live. I work as an interpreter to sustain my life in the camp, as well as to service my community who are in need of help as they arrive from their journey from Somalia. I try to help them in whatever way I can, including working as an interpreter. When I grow up, I want to be a politician [back home] in Somalia. I think the best way to help our country is to go back and build it. It is up to us even if we didn't finish school. I think if 20 years from now, these children [who have just arrived] become interpreters for more Somali refugees leaving the country, it would be a disaster. The world will hate us. We have been helped, we have been fed for the past 20 years. Another 20 years of this would tell the international community that we are not people capable of peace. I am hoping that politicians can create a space for people to return [because] the best way is not to go to Europe or America, the best way is to go back our country and to help build it.
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