Dadaab: The World’s Biggest Refugee Camp

20145193143185734_20Dadaab, Kenya – A young, panic-stricken woman sits under a tree, telling anyone who will listen about her plight.

“They forced me to leave my children behind,” said Ifrah Hassan, a 29-year-old mother of three. A crowd of dozens, mostly men, has gathered around her to listen.

This is Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, located in an arid portion of eastern Kenya near the Somali border.

Kenyan police arrested Hassan at her apartment in Nairobi’s Eastleigh district on April 15. She was sent to Dadaab along with 78 other people following a government crackdown on foreign nationals. “I’m Ethiopian. I have identification papers. They arrested me and took me to Pangani police station, then took me to Kasarani stadium [in Nairobi] before they brought me here,” she told Al Jazeera.

Hassan spends her days in a UN transit centre within Dadaab waiting for her phone to ring. She can’t call them because she has no credit on her phone, so her neighbours in Nairobi lend her eldest child a phone to call her. The last time she heard from them was five days ago, and the call only lasted for three minutes.

After explosions and shootings in Nairobi and Mombasa that left more than a dozen people dead, the Kenyan government launched a security sweep in April that has so far rounded up more than 4,000 foreign nationals, mainly from the Somali-inhabited Eastleigh district of the capital. The government has blamed immigrants who entered the country illegally for the insecurity, accusing them of sheltering members of al-Shabab, the Somali rebel group.

In April, Kenya deported more than 200 refugees to war-torn Somalia, and plans on sending the hundreds of people it has detained in Nairobi to the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps.

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