Kenya: Somali Refugees Fear Returning Home
Monday, January 6, 2014
BY ADOW MOHAMED,
Refugees stand at the razor-wire fence of the Dagahaley refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 19, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. The refugee camp at Dadaab, located close to the Kenyan border with Somalia, was originally designed in the early 1990s to accommodate 90,000 people but the UN estimates over 4 times as many reside there.
(July 18, 2011 - Source: Oli Scarff/Getty Images Europe)
AS the Kenyan government prepares to repatriate about a million Somalis, refugees in the Dadaab camps are confused as to what their future holds in 2014. Their fears are pegged on what the process will involve as state and humanitarian agencies plan the 'inevitable' repatriation process that is expected to start 'anytime soon'. Although it is not yet clear as to when the actual repatriation will begin.
Aid agencies and volunteers in the camps have already started sensitising potential returnees and are encouraging them as they prepare to go back home.
In November, Interior Security Secretary Joseph ole Lenku ordered the closure of refugee camps in the country. He said the initial group of returnees are expected to be back home in a six month pilot phase that may start this month following a Tripartite Agreement, signed on November 10 between Kenya, Somalia and the UN Refugee agency.
In the agreement, legal framework was established for refugees who might eventually wish to return to their homeland. It also defined the roles and responsibilities of the three parties in accordance with national and international standards of voluntary return-home formula.
Abdi Hanshi, a refugee in Dagahley camp, expressed concerns on how the government will conduct the process and whether their home country is ready to receive them. "We don't know what this year has in store for us, as refugees. We are worried about our future here and in Somalia," he said.
Somalia continues to face uncertain future as sporadic attacks claim many lives in various parts of the country, especially in the capital, Mogadishu. UNHCR said at least 800 refugees had voluntarily returned to Somalia by the end of last year.
According to sources, the refugee agency is also facing budget constraints occasioned by the South Sudan and Syria crises, a situation expected to create a logistical nightmare for the safe and humane repatriation process.
The UN agency said it is preparing pilot-projects in Kismaayo and Baidoa as Luuq is often seen as relatively peaceful as compared to other parts of the war-torn Somalia.
In Dadaab, return help-desks have also been established to provide returnees with information and assistance on repatriation.
In a recent assessments by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), four out of five Somali refugees living in the Dadaab refugee camp are not willing to go back home.