The United States has called on the Kenyan government to reopen and expand the Liboi Reception Center near the Kenyan-Somali border to meet the needs of new asylum seekers from the war-torn nation.
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger said despite the border closure, more than 55,000 new refugees have entered Kenya since January.
He said a reception center for orderly registration and medical and security screenings is urgently needed to provide protection to the Kenyan host population and for the refugees in the camp.
"Despite the border closure, over 55,000 new refugees have entered Kenya since this January. A reception center for orderly registration and medical and security screenings is urgently needed to provide protection to the Kenyan host population and for the refugees in the camp," the envoy said in a statement issued after his visit to the Dadaab camp on Wednesday.
"Ranneberger urges the government of Kenya to re-open and authorize expansion of the Liboi Reception Center near the Somali border to meet the needs of new asylum seekers," it said.
Ranneberger spoke when he visited Dadaab Refugee Camp to express appreciation for Kenya's continued role in supporting asylum seekers from Somalia and to review the conditions in the camp.
He expressed concerns over the reports that pointed to overcrowded conditions, increasing number of refugees and inadequate land resources that could lead to a humanitarian crisis in the camp.
Kenya, Ranneberger said, needs to ensure the security of its citizens and control its borders. "As a contracting party to the 1969 OAU Convention on Refugees, however, Kenya is obligated to allow Somalis to cross the border to seek asylum," he said.
He said Washington this year provided 25 million U.S. dollars towards refugee assistance programs in Kenya. The U.S. government was prepared to request emergency funding to assist the preparing Liboi Reception Center and for the construction of new camps.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR estimates that should conditions in Somalia deteriorate further, some 60,000 to 100,000 may cross into Kenya next year. Additional human and financial resources will be needed to provide legal and humanitarian assistance to the current and future population.
The UN agencies -- the office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program and the UN Children's Fund and all partners announced they will launch an appeal to the donor community to come to the aid of these refugees.
(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2008)