CAJ News Agency Johannesburg Nairobi Maria Macharia
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ARMED groups are forcibly recruiting teenage boys returning to Somalia in the wake of the imminent closure of the world’s biggest refugee camp in Kenya.

The minors, who have since fled back to Kenya, are among an estimated 165 000 vulnerable children risking violence, forced recruitment and separation from their families, as thousands leave Dadaab refugee camp.

While the camp’s population currently stands at nearly 277 000 – 60 percent are children – tens of thousands of parents and children have already returned to Somalia in the last year following plans to close the camp in November.

“The residents of Dadaab have been living in fear and confusion since the announced closure of the camp forced families to accelerate plans to move back to Somalia,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.

Many Somali children in Dadaab are also being forced to abandon school.

Returning to Somalia means they will be forced to fight in the war one way or another.

They risk recruitment by government forces or extremist groups.

Children’s rights groups have thus urged Kenya to rescind its decision to close Dabaab until repatriations were safe, dignified and voluntary.

Kenya announced plans to close the camp earlier this year.

Providing refuge to thousands of Somalians since 1992, concerns have been raised Dabaab had become a breeding and recruiting ground for the Al-Shabaab terror group regularly attacking Kenya.

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