The residents of the sprawling Dadaab camp in northern Kenya are living paradoxes: nationals of no nation, refugees who in many cases are also natives — born and raised in a state of anguished waiting.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. When Dadaab was established a quarter of a century ago, it was envisioned as a short-term shelter, mostly for Somalis fleeing war and famine. It was not meant to endure for two decades and become home to possibly as many as 600,000 people — though the official count is much smaller.
But a lesson of Ben Rawlence’s magisterial “City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp” (Picador) is that the multitudes, driven by fear and want, are endowed with their own momentum. Their informal collective power overwhelms institutional designs.
Somalis torn between hunger in Dadaab and uncertainty at home – The world’s largest refugee camp, at Dabaab in Kenya, is piloting a scheme offering voluntary repatriation to Somalis