Monday, June 27, 2016

Kenya plans to repatriate 150,000 Somali refugees

The Kenyan government plans to repatriate about 150,000 Somali refugees from the Dadaab refugee camp by the end of 2016.

The plan was revealed in a statement issued after the Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Somali Refugees living in Kenya held a meeting over the weekend. The commission consists of officials from Kenya, Somalia and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

The statement said the voluntary repatriation has seen the return of more than 16,000 Somali refugees to date, and will be implemented with continued support from Kenya, Somalia and partners.

"The parties noted the prospect of the reduction of the population in the Dadaab camps by 150,000 individuals by the end of 2016 as a result of voluntary returns to Somalia, relocation of non-Somali refugees, the de-registration of Kenyan citizens who registered as refugees, and a population verification exercise," reads the statement.

The meeting was attended by Somalia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdusalam Hadliye Omer, and UNHCR chief, Filippo Grandi.

"The commission directed the tripartite technical committee to conclude concrete operational modalities and support measures which will be provided in Kenya and Somalia," the statement said.

  • Kenya in May announced it will close Dadaab and repatriate the more than 300,000 Somalis living in it, citing environmental and security concerns. Somalia has said it is ready to receive the Somalis back home.

Located in northeastern Kenya, Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, was set up more than 20 years ago to house people fleeing conflict in Somalia.

The Dadaab closure process will also involve the identification of non-Somali refugees who will be taken to Kenya's Kakuma camp and local citizens who live in the camp will obtain humanitarian assistance, according to the statement.

As of the end of May, the number of Somali refugees registered in Dadaab had decreased to 326,000, a reduction of over 100,000 people in the past five years -- many of whom are believed to have spontaneously returned to Somalia, the statement said.

Grandi called for more financial support as they plan to increase the repatriation package given to refugees, saying funds will be a significant determinant of how fast the process goes.

"We are planning to increase the package or double as this is what most of the refugees have requested because they actually want to go home. The package is in need of cash for food and also other non-food items. But all in all, the most important part of repatriation process will be cash," Grandi said.

Omer said Somalia and Kenya had agreed to conduct the repatriation in a humane and dignified way.

"Their (the refugee's) safety is assured and land (in Somalia) has been set aside for refugees. All the work is in progress and 20,000 Somalis have expressed their willingness to go back home," said Omer.

The tripartite commission committed to engaging bilateral and multilateral development partners in raising necessary funds to facilitate the repatriation.

Kenya estimates that at least 200 million U.S. dollars were needed for the repatriation to be completed in a humane manner.

The tripartite commission agreed to meet in October to review progress made in the voluntary repatriation.

Kenya believes Somalia's Islamist group Al-Shabaab has hideouts in Dadaab. Al-Shabaab militants have carried out several deadly attacks in Kenya in recent years.

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