The devastating news that Kenya’s government made the decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp — home to more than 300,000 refugees — came just before World Refugee Day.

Today, six U.S. senators, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Al Franken (D-MN) signed a letter asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to urge the Kenyan government to keep Dadaab refugee camp open.

More than 300,000 refugees from Somalia call Dadaab refugee camp home. If the camp closes, they will be forced to return to a country still experiencing conflict and war.

The Dadaab refugee camp has stood for over 24 years, a lifetime longer than many of the camp’s refugees — 58 percent of whom are children.

Read More: World Refugee Day | Standing #WithRefugees in Dadaab

The senators' letter acknowledges it has been no easy feat for the camp to remain open for decades. Kenya has struggled to balance welcoming refugees from neighboring countries torn apart by violence and  finding resources to fight its own battles against al-Shabaab militants.

Though Kenya has helped support refugees from Somalia for decades, their assistance is still essential to the lives and safety for thousands of people. Dadaab must remain in operation in order to protect refugees from a climate which is still unstable in Somalia. Sending refugees back now would be disastrous.

"‎The closure of the Dadaab refugee camp would have a devastating effect on the more than 300,000 Somali refugees living in Dadaab and could result in a tragic humanitarian crisis in the region,” Sen. Shaheen told Global Citizen.

“I am concerned that refugees will be forced to choose between returning to their war-torn homes in Somalia or risking the perilous journey to Europe or other safe havens. I understand the heavy burden Kenya is under as a result of violence in Somalia, but I strongly believe that we can find a solution that addresses both their security needs as well as concerns for the refugees continued safety.”

Read More: Malala Spent Her Birthday at Dadaab Refugee Camp

These refugees would be returning to  an unstable climate in Somalia. While many hope they will be able to return to their home country eventually, now is not the time.

The six senators also urged Kerry to consider the support the U.S. is providing the UN-supported government in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

“These efforts are meant to allow for the eventual return of the 300,000 Somali refugees at Dadaab, as well as the countless others scattered around the world by the violence in their home country,” the letter stated.

Let’s hope Kerry hears this plea loud and clear, taking the next steps to urge Kenya’s government to do the right thing.


Demand Equity

6 Senators Just Asked John Kerry to Fight for This Kenya Refugee Camp

By Meghan Werft