Kenya: Repatriation process to Somalia starting, must be voluntary

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 26 November 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Following the signing on 10 November of a Tripartite Agreement between UNHCR, the Government of Kenya, and the Somali Government, UNHCR and the Kenyan Government have reiterated that all returns of Somalis refugees from Kenya to Somalia should be strictly voluntary. UNHCR does not support forced returns.

This understanding was reaffirmed last Friday (22 November) 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. 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 Tripartite 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 themselves 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.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi: Kitty McKinsey (regional) on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Dadaab: Mans Nyberg on mobile +254 704 807 205
  • In Geneva: Daniel MacIsaac on mobile +41 79 200 7617