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Kenya: most Pemba and Zanzibaris want to return

Briefing notes

Kenya: most Pemba and Zanzibaris want to return

8 May 2001

UNHCR has registered 680 Tanzanian refugees who say they want to return home to the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar from the Kenyan coastal town of Shimoni. The number represents almost everyone still sheltering at a makeshift camp on the grounds of a fishery compound in Shimoni. It also includes community leaders who fled after violence erupted on the islands in late January.

An operation for the voluntary return of the refugees could begin as early as next week. UNHCR staff are currently locating a ship in Mombasa port with a capacity of around 100 passengers for use in the repatriation. Most of the refugees crossed the 40 km from Pemba to the Kenyan mainland aboard small fishing dhows and have kept about a dozen boats moored near Shimoni. UNHCR will facilitate the return of the dhows and their crews with rations of fuel but will transport passengers to the islands on a larger vessel to avoid over-crowding.

Returnees will also receive a cash grant of US$50 per adult and $20 per child to help with immediate needs on their arrival home. Most of the refugees are farmers or fishermen, and have missed around three months of economic activity.

UNHCR offices in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are presently working on the legal framework for the repatriation. The Government of Tanzania has indicated that UNHCR will be able to monitor the return and reintegration on the island, in keeping with the agency's mandate.

A total of 505 refugees left Shimoni for Dadaab camps in north-eastern Kenya in the past two weeks. UNHCR relocated those who accepted to move to the existing camps because they were not optimistic about being able to return home quickly. Over 2,000 refugees initially crowded into the site at Shimoni. Several hundred refugees found shelter with local villagers and will likely present themselves for repatriation once the return operation is underway. Anyone remaining in Shimoni after the conclusion of the return operation will have their status reviewed individually.