Abulogn Okello, Graduate of the Master of Education, York University Borderless Higher Education for Refugees Program

Executive summary:

As a result of domestic terror attacks in the last decades, Kenyan government officials and media outlets have begun to frame refugee camps as hotbeds of terror and extremism. These representations have shifted dominant and traditional perceptions of Dadaab refugees as victims of conflict to potential terrorists and threats to Kenyan national security. Accordingly, the Government of Kenya has taken a series of policy measures, including the introduction of an encampment policy to restrict refugees’ movement and, more recently, a policy of repatriating Somali refugees to Somalia and relocating other nationalities to Kakuma. Recent escalations of attacks in Kenya have further amplified calls from the Government of Kenya to expedite the repatriation of refugees to Somalia. The policies of repatriation have significantly impacted operations in the Dadaab camp, particularly around the education of refugees, throwing refugee individuals and families into panic and confusion. Refugees in the camp place their hope and expectations for better living conditions now, as well as in their future, on the education offered in the camp as they await a durable solution.

In this paper, I investigate the relationship between repatriation policy, demographic change, and educational systems in Dadaab. I have shown how the shrinking of the camp due to repatriation has contributed to the closure of organizations that offer education, resulting in significant effects on the continuity of education. Using semi-structured interviews, I analyzed the relationship between repatriation and education. Interview participants discussed their time in the camps, education, restrictions on movement, economic opportunity, vulnerability, uncertainty, and hope. Although I contend that repatriation remains immensely valuable as one possible durable solution for refugees, I outline the key challenges and issues surrounding forced repatriation, including the sociocultural and economic disadvantages for those who repatriate as a result of government policy versus personal will. The paper concludes with recommendations on continuing to support access to education for refugees in the camps and on adequately supporting refugees who are repatriating to Somalia.

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