April 4, 2011 / 8:58 AM / 9 years ago

U.N. aid aims to block Somali militias from Kenya

* UN to fund increased police presence in camp

* 10,000 Somalis arrive each month

* Militia recruit young refugees

By Katy Migiro

DADAAB, Kenya, April 4 (Reuters) - The United Nations is offering Kenya funding to increase the police presence in the world’s largest refugee camp to help stem the recruitment of young Somalis by militia fighting back home.

The U.N. refugee agency wants to pay for more police officers and better infrastructure, including police posts and cars, to make the Dadaab camp, 100 km (62 miles) from the Somali border, safer.

Lax screening and poor security have allowed an influx of weapons, drugs and militia groups recruiting idle young men, security officials say.

There are currently 230 police officers serving the camp, Kenyan officials say.

“We hope that there will be, very soon, the signature of the security package. Based on that, I believe that there will be an expansion allowed in this camp,” said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, on a visit to Dadaab.

The camp houses 332,000 refugees, according to the United Nations, more than three times the number it was designed for when it opened in 1991.

Few of the young refugees get the chance to go to school or find jobs as it is illegal for them to work in Kenya.

Since the beginning of 2011, over 27,400 Somali refugees have arrived in Dadaab, displaced by a recent upsurge in fighting between Somali troops and allied militia on one hand and al Qaeda-linked rebel group al Shabaab on the other.

“The war with al Shabaab and the transitional government of Somalia is going on just across the border, and there is a real security concern everywhere in the country and specifically in Dadaab,” said Badu Katelo, acting commissioner for refugee affairs in the Kenyan government, on a visit to the camp.

“We are receiving 10,000 refugees a month. I think we are reaching a level where the burden is too big to handle.”

Civil war has plagued Somalia since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 20 years ago.

Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs took over the registration of new arrivals from the UNHCR in March to tighten screening of refugees.

A youth leader in the camp said militia groups such as al Shabaab, the Jubaland Force, as well as the Ethiopian Ogaden National Liberation Front, were recruiting young refugees.

Guterres said it was in the “enlightened self-interest of the international community” to pay more attention to the crisis in Somalia.

“Somalia is becoming a very serious global problem. There are lots of concerns in relation to piracy. There are lots of concerns in relation to terrorism,” he said. (Editing by Helen Nyambura and Paul Taylor)

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