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Aid Agency Cautions On Mass Return Of Somali Refugees From Kenya

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

A security officer tries to keep order in Dadaab, Kenya. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

World’s largest refugee camp in Kenya at risk of closing

DADAAB, Kenya — The world’s largest refugee camp is becoming a scene of not only chronic misery but a new and growing confrontation between a Kenyan government threatening to shut it down and occupants vowing to stay. advertisements.

The government announced April 11 that it wanted the camp closed within three months because it was used as a staging ground by al-Shabab terrorists for the deadly university attack in Garissa earlier this month that killed more than 140 students and staff.

But the 350,000 refugees — mostly Somalis who have fled civil war, terrorism and famine — say they won’t willingly leave the peace and security of Dadaab. On their side: the United Nations, which has spoken out against the move. “I will either live or die at this camp,” said Abdi Mohammed Adan, 37, who came to Dadaab recently with his wife and four children. “I can’t go back to Somalia. It’s not safe. And there is hunger (there).”

Mohamed Kuno, believed to be the mastermind behind the university attack, was a headmaster at a madrassa, or Islamic school, in the Dadaab camp. The Kenyan government currently has a $215,000 bounty on his head.

Other terrorists involved in the attacks were either refugees or Kuno’s colleagues at the madrassa, said Adan Duale, the majority leader of Kenya’s National Assembly who represents Garissa Township.

At least four of the terrorists were killed in a military operation to end a more than 15-hour long siege April 2 that also left 79 people injured. Since then, seven suspects in the attack have been arrested. Founded 25 years ago as Somalia’s government imploded and the East African country descended into civil war, the Dadaab camp has become a city where generations have lived and died.

“Living in Somalia is like being in hell. My neighbors in Somalia were all killed by militants before I moved with my family,” said Adan’s wife, Aisha, 27. Duale said he believes al-Shabab — a terror group linked with al-Qaeda — has used the camp for other attacks that were in retaliation against Kenya for sending soldiers into Somalia in 2011 to root out Muslim extremism. He includes the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi two years ago that left 67 dead and injured about 175 people among those assaults.

“Those involved in terror activities have been trained at these camps,” Duale said, referring to three facilities that make up the larger Dadaab refugee zone. “They come from Somalia and the people of Kenya need to be protected. The time has come when the national security of our people becomes paramount.”

Despite reports its stance has softened, the Kenya government insists the camp should be shuttered. However, donors will be needed to help repatriate all the refugees back to Somalia — a process that requires additional funds and could take some time, said Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed.

“We can’t tell when the refugees will be repatriated,” she said. “This can be either within the three months or a little bit over that period. But the bottom line would be to repatriate the refugees.”

The legislature has called on the United Nations to help Kenya close down the camp and arrange for safe return of all Somali refugees to their country. “The Somalis have been with us for the last 20 years,” Duale said. “They’ve radicalized our youths in these camps and it’s time they should leave. We want the refugees to be relocated across the border.”

The United Nations has called on Duale and other Kenyan leaders to reconsider. Moving hundreds of thousands of unwilling people would be a logistical nightmare. It’s also not clear whether the refugees would be safe in Somalia, and Kenya is a signatory to U.N. refugee conventions obligating the country to protect the refugees. “Abruptly closing the Dadaab camps and forcing refugees back to Somalia would have extreme humanitarian and practical consequences, and would be a breach of Kenya’s international obligations,” said Karin de Gruijl, a spokesperson for the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, in a statement.

Under international law, Kenya can’t simply close the camp, said Nazlin Umar Fazaldin Rajput, chairperson of the National Muslim Council of Kenya. But even if officials were able to shutter it, the refugees and terrorists would simply return.

ICRC

Urgent food aid for 36 000 displaced people

he International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), assisted by the Somali Red Crescent Society, just completed a distribution of food to over 36,000 displaced people in the town of Beletweyne, in the central part of the country. In addition, 4,000 children under five years of age and 860 pregnant women were provided with one-month supplies of therapeutic nutritional products.

“In the Hiiran region, a combination of poor harvest, drought and protracted conflict forced many people in remote areas to relocate from their homes to Beletweyne, increasing the density of displaced people in the surrounding camps and exacerbating the already fragile food security situation there,” said Kristy Manners, the ICRC’s nutrition specialist for Somalia.

The distribution just completed is part of an ongoing response. Earlier this year, an ICRC survey of the food security of displaced people in the camps revealed that aid was urgently required. A first round of food distributions took place in early July for the same displaced people – 6100 families. The second round just completed provides them with a month’s supply of food to help them cope with lingering food shortages.

In Somalia, the ICRC works with the Somali Red Crescent to help victims of conflict or natural disaster. The organization provides emergency assistance, boosts self-reliance, promotes international humanitarian law, visits detainees and restores contact between family members separated by conflict.

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Over 130,000 people displaced in Somalia so far this year as IDPs bear brunt of food insecurity crisis

Forced displacement within Somalia and across its borders shows no signs of easing, as forced evictions, drought, conflict and lack of livelihoods have forced over 130,000 people from their homes since the start of the year. The vast majority – some 107,000 – are internally displaced in Somalia; a total of 23,000 newly arrived Somali refugees have registered in Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia during the first eight months of the year.

Insecurity was the main cause of internal displacement, with some 38,000 people fleeing their homes because of military conflict. It is estimated that in the last eight month, approximately 7,000 people have fled the ongoing military offensive in South Central Somalia. While displacement is likely to be temporary, with people returning to their homes once it is safe to do so, many still require assistance when displaced. These efforts are however hampered by limited access to towns affected by military activity, with expensive airlifts often the only way to get supplies to people in need.

The forced evictions of IDPs from both private and government owned land and buildings is estimated to have uprooted almost 33,000 people. Some 15,600 were affected in the port city of Kismayo earlier this year and some 18,300 people were evicted in the capital Mogadishu in recent weeks alone. UNHCR is engaged in dialogue with its counterparts in the Somali authorities to ensure that such evictions do not violate basic human rights. UNHCR distributed basic relief items to 3,000 displaced families in Kismayo in recent weeks, but additional distributions are required. Many people are living in sites lacking basic services in shelters made of sticks, grass and empty cardboard boxes and incidents of gender based violence (GBV) and rape of young girls and women by militias operating outside the settlements have been reported.

In 2014, Yemen has received 11,000 new arrivals by boat across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, practically matching the figures recorded for the whole of 2013. Most of the new arrivals come from the six regions in South Central Somalia mostly affected by drought, food insecurity and poverty. Almost 9,000 Somalis have arrived in Kenya while Ethiopia has registered more than 3,000 Somali refugees arriving this year. The total number of Somali refugees in the region stands at 957,000.

This continued displacement comes at a time when the internally displaced are bearing the brunt of the current food insecurity crisis in the country. IDPs spend proportionately more – up to 75% – of their available income on food compared to Somalis in rural and urban communities.

According to the recent assessment by FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), IDPs have the highest rates of severe acute malnutrition while malnutrition rates are critical in in seven of the 13 IDP sites surveyed. The under-five death rate among Mogadishu IDPs is six times the average. While UNHCR and other agencies are scaling up response, our Somalia operation requires more than USD 40 million, and remains underfunded at 38 per cent.

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Floods force 1,500 families to flee from their homes in Bardere

Floods have forced hundreds of residents in Gedo region’s Bardere district to flee their houses on Monday following heavy rains in the district. About 1,500 families have fled from the eastern parts of Bardere to other parts of the district, according to Radio Ergo’s local reporter, who is among those displaced from their homes. The residents are worried that their town will be underwater if the rains continue. “The food prices are dramatically rising as there are no vehicles transporting commodities and goods from Mogadishu to the district due to the floods,” said Mohamed Sheikh Ali Nor, a resident of Bardere. He added that the floods had cut off all the roads connecting the town to other parts of the country. At least two people have so far been confirmed dead in the floods, while eight others have been injured and 18 homes destroyed.

Source: Radio Ergo