Repatriation of Somali Refugees
94 returnees of Somali origin were headed home after decades of exile in the world’s largest refugee camp.
The first group of Somali refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp have returned home. These refugees have been in Kenya since the fall of Somalia in 1991 when the government of Siad Barre was overthrown by a clan based militia.
The International Organization of Immigration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR began the first voluntary repatriation on Monday, 8 December 2014.
The two leading organizations are targeting about 15,000 Somali refugees to return home with an estimated 500 persons due to return by the end of December. According to UNHCR, the returns marked the beginning of a six months pilot project in which the returning refugees will be provided with assistance. The repatriation package will include services like health care, rations, non-food items and tents.
“This initiative aims at supporting the spontaneous return movement we have observed since 2012 and at better targeting the assistance needed by those opting to return to their places of origins to rebuild their lives,” said Raouf Mazou, Representative of UNHCR Kenya.
However, the UNHCR representative for Somalia, Alessandra Morelli, warned that the country is not yet conducive to large scale returns, saying that those deciding to return home need to be aware of the fragile situation and conditions of the area.
Some returnees have expressed negative reactions to the process, stating that they had not been given sufficient information on the process of the repatriation. “We are not sure of where to go and what we are required to do. I don’t know what amount of support is available for my family!” Ali Ibrahim Mohamed told Kanere from Dadaab’s Ifo 2 camp.
The repatriation process is the outcome of a tripartite agreement signed between Kenya, the Somali government and UNHCR in November 2013. In this agreement, it was stated the repatriation of Somali refugees should be voluntarily conducted in a dignified and humane process.
In September 2014, Kenya requested 8.8 billion shillings ($99.3 million) to fund the repatriation of Somali refugees. However, the Department for Refugee Affairs said the response to appeals for funding has been below expectations.
The war based on ethnic divisions in Somalia has forced hundreds and thousands of Somali across international borders, not only within the African continent but also Asia and Europe with large numbers of refugees and forced migrants.