An international aid agency on Wednesday urged both Kenya and the UN refugee agency to ensure repatriation of 350,000 Somali refugees living in northeast region to be genuinely voluntary. Danish Refugee Council (DRC)’s Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) said most Somali refugees living in the Dadaab camps come from south and central Somalia, areas which remain highly volatile and warned such returns may pose humanitarian crisis.
“Any mass movement of refugees from Kenya should be avoided, as it is likely to further worsen the already dire humanitarian conditions, and risk negating any gains made through the ongoing implementation of the pilot returns program,” ReDSS Coordinator Gemma Davies said. Davies said in a statement issued in Nairobi as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guteres begins a three- day visit to Kenya which mainly focuses on the planed refugee repatriation.
“Such a movement may undermine the search for safe and sustainable durable solutions for Somali refugees,” Davies added. The Kenyan government believes Somalia militants Al-Shabaab, who killed 148 people at Garissa University early in April are behind a spate of insecurity that has hit several parts of northern, Nairobi and coastal regions. Under international law Kenya cannot forcibly return the refugees. Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said the government had given the UNHCR three months to close Dadaab or Kenya would “relocate them ourselves.” Dadaab was set up in 1991 to house families fleeing conflicts in Somalia.
Some people have been living there for more than 20 years. Davies asked the government to boost security by strengthening community policing and intelligence gathering in border areas to ensure proper and targeted response to security threats. “ReDSS is committed to supporting the search for considered, long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees and IDPs in the region, and will continue to work alongside states, humanitarian and development actors to achieve this aim,” he said.
Source: Xinhua News