UNHCR SAYS 70,000 SOMALI REFUGEES WILLING TO RETURN HOME FROM KENYA

Approximately 70,000 Somalia refugees based at Kenya’s giant Dadaab refugee camp are willing to return to their home country by the end of the year, the UN refugee agency says.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Kenya Assistant Representative in Charge of Protection Catherine Hamon Sharpe said Thursday that this figure represented approximately 25 per cent of Somalia refugees in Kenya.

“We therefore think that the deadline given by the Kenya government to close the Dadaab camp in November is not realistic if the refugees are to be repatriated voluntarily in a dignified and humane manner,” Sharpe said during a panel discussion on refugee issues in Nairobi.

Sharpe addedsaid that they have urged the Kenyan government to reconsider its decision to close the Dadaab camp, which houses more than 320,000 refugees, making it the largest such complex in the world.

“We are therefore engaging the Kenyan authorities so that they extend the voluntary repatriation agreement that expires in November,” she added.

The UN official said that currently 2,000 Somali refugees at the Dadaab transition camp had signed for voluntary repatriations. “However, they can’t leave the camp because the Jubaland (in southern Somalia) officials have refused to receive them,” she said.

In 2013, the UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Kenya-based Somali refugees back to Somalia. In 2011 during the Horn of Africa drought, Kenya hosted more than 500,000 Somalia refugees but by December 2014, the figure had dropped by 100,000.

Sharpe said that since 2014, the UNHCR had assisted in the voluntary repatriation of 28,000 refugees back to Somalia.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK