NAIROBI - Tensions are rising in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp complex in northwest Kenya as a massive influx of Somali refugees, fleeing a brutal insurgency across the border, stretches the facilities to breaking point.
A UN official said yesterday the complex, made up of three separate camps stretching over 50 square kilometres, now hosts 215000 refugees - the vast majority of them Somali. It was set up 16 years ago to hold only 90 000.
Local residents, who have long been unhappy with the impact of the camp on the community, are losing patience with the seemingly endless stream of refugees.
They have been staging demonstrations and have handed over an official letter of protest to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
"We have been working with the community but they have a feeling that much more needs to be done," UNHCR information officer in Kenya Emmanuel Nyabera told Deutsche PresseAgentur.
"We are looking at the document and are hoping we can have a meeting with the government tomorrow or the day after tomorrow."
Nyabera said an area had been identified for a fourth camp and that discussions on final approval were under way.
But locals are unlikely to be appeased by an increase in the capacity of the camp. The desert region - in recent years hit by both droughts and floods - is far from an economic powerhouse.
Residents in the region want to see more jobs being handed out locally and are concerned about the environmental impact of the camp
An aid worker in Dadaab, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told dpa that locals were demonstrating daily and demanding that the refugees leave.
There have also been reports of locals stoning passing UN vehicles.
Almost one million Somalis have fled the brutal insurgency, which seems only to be getting worse.
Most of those fleeing the violence in the capital city Mogadishu remain displaced within Somalia, but the flow to Kenya remains constant despite the border being officially closed. - Sapa-dpa