WUSC Regina sponsored student, Mohamed Hassan, on his life in Dadaab refugee camp and his take on the news coming from Dadaab in recent weeks.
As many of you may have read or heard before, Dadaab is the biggest and oldest refugee camp in the world. That is where I grew up, I dedicate all my life’s achievements to it, because the difficulties I encountered as a growing young refugee boy made me who I am today. After the break up of the civil war in my home country, Somalia, in 1991, my family and I fled to Kenya and was settled in one of the three camps in Dadaab called Dagahaley. By then I was an infant and I spent almost my entire life (19 years) in Dadaab and my family is still there to date. Apart from being a Canadian Permanent Resident, I don not have any identity or nationality to claim, you should not be surprised if I call myself a Dadaabian, because that is where I trace all my lifetime experiences; failures, achievements, joy, sorrow, hunger and suffering.
Having seen a lot of hardships in my life, I was always enthusiastic and never gave up in my studies. That is what made me come here. Being one of the best students in my camp, I got sponsored by World University Services of Canada (WUSC). This gave me opportunities I always yearned for. It gave me the only hope in my life to get out of the hardships I was always in. Now I have the chance to pursue my accounting degree and work hard to get to the next level in my life. Right now, I am only worried about my family who are in the middle of hardships. This makes me loose focus, but, I hope one day I will get well-wishers to sponsor my family and bring them here. By then I will have nothing to worry about and my life will be complete.
The situation in my camp is getting worse time after time. Due to its close proximity to the Kenya/Somalia border and the continuous chaos in my country, more and more refugees keep moving into it. Thus, the camp which was originally intended to be settled by 90 000 refugees is now holding up to 350 000 refugees and many more are coming to it. The humanitarian agencies working there are asking for help as they do not have the capacity to support all the people. Many new refugees come to Dadaab and end up not getting food and shelter for more than a month.
The security cases in Dadaab have increased significantly in the previous years. Many new-comers who do not have basic necessities tend to use violence to get food and shelter. They attack the other refugees who stayed in the camp longer and take away food and any valuable thing they come across. It is not their fault, they are doing all things to make sure they survive because they do not get support from the UN and other agencies who in turn face shortages. Besides that, many of the youth who finish high schools and do not get the opportunities to further studies or jobs go back to Somalia and join the armed militias who are destroying our nation.
The mismanagement of funds and corrupted bosses of many of the humanitarian agencies in Dadaab also plays a big role in intensifying the suffering of the refugees. For instance, several countries like the USA, Canada and Australia provide the long time refugees (those who stayed in the camp since 1992 like my family) with the option to get resettled in those countries. But it happens that many of the deserving people do not get the opportunities to come to these countries. Instead, some wealthy people, who stayed in the camp for less than a year, pay money and end up going to Canada, USA and Australia. I wish Transparency International had an office in Dadaab; many people would be sued and the victimized refugees would get their rights back.