Kenya will allow an idle refugee camp in the country's northeast to be opened to help shelter the streams of refugees pouring across the border from Somalia, reports say.

The combination of persistent drought and conflict is driving more than 1,400 people every day  from Somalia to the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp complex in Kenya, the United Nations human rights agency estimates.


People who fled drought and hunger in their own country wait in line to register as refugees, in Ifo Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya on Thursday. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

The Dadaab complex, which includes the Hagadera, Dagahely and Ifo camps, was originally designed to house some 90,000 people.

The camps now shelter some 380,000 people and are ill-equipped to deal with a surge in refugees, aid groups said.

Aid agencies and the UNHCR have urged the Kenyan government to authorize the opening of the idle camp, which is already equipped with latrines, water systems and health-care facilities.

The BBC reported Thursday that Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the idle camp — called Ifo II or the Ifo extension — would be open within 10 days.


"Although we consider our own security, we cannot turn away refugees," Odinga said Thursday during a visit to the area. He also said UN agencies must take responsibility for the new camp.

Some Kenyan government ministers had expressed concern that opening the new camp would encourage more people to cross the border.

George Saitoti, Kenya's internal security minister, told a Nairobi newspaper that he also worried that the camps would be infiltrated by al-Shabab, a Somali insurgent group with links to al-Qaeda.

Aid agencies have estimated that as many as 10 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa.

UNICEF on Thursday called the Somalia drought and resulting refugee crisis "the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world."

With files from The Canadian Press