UNHCR stresses that repatriation of Somalis from Kenya must be voluntary
News Stories, 26 November 2013
Tents stretch away into the distance in a part of the sprawling Dadaab refugee complex in north-east Kenya.
GENEVA, November 26 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Tuesday reiterated that UNHCR and the Kenyan government agreed that all returns of Somalis refugees from Kenya to Somalia should be strictly voluntary. "UNHCR does not support forced returns," spokesman Adrian Edwards stressed in Geneva.
"This understanding was reaffirmed last Friday when the Kenyan and Somali refugee commissioners Badu Katelo and Ahmed Nur, visited Dadaab refugee camp-complex in north-eastern Kenya to discuss the repatriation process now starting," Edwards added. Their visit followed the signing on November 10 of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, the government of Kenya and the Somali government.
Edwards said that UNHCR works and speaks with the refugees daily, "but this visit provided the refugees with the opportunity to ask high-level Somali officials about the areas to which they are considering returning – with some lively informal discussions in addition to town hall meetings."
The November 10 agreement sets out the legal framework for returns to Somalia. It specifies that all returns should be voluntary and take place in safety and dignity. There is no deadline in the agreement for the returns.
Implementation of voluntary repatriation will initially concentrate on supporting, on a pilot-project basis, refugees who are spontaneously returning to Somalia. Three areas in Somalia will be targeted for this purpose. So far, Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo are under discussion with the refugees.
Preparations are under way in both Kenya and Somalia to implement the pilot project. In Dadaab, return help-desks have been established to provide refugees with information and assistance on repatriation to Somalia.
UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.
Crossing the Gulf of Aden
Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.
Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.
Crossing the Gulf of Aden
In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.
As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.
Flood Airdrop in Kenya
Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.
In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.
Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.
UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.
Posted in December 2006
Flood Airdrop in Kenya
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