, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 11 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stressed that the agreement for the repatriation of Somali refugees signed with the Kenyan and Somali governments on Sunday is based on the premise that the exercise will be voluntary.
In a press statement released on Monday, the UNHCR Representative in Kenya Raouf Mazou said, “It’s very important to underline that no one is forcing Somalis to leave Kenya.”
“The government and people of Kenya have tirelessly provided protection and assistance to Somali refugees for two decades. The agreement we signed on Sunday does not mean Kenya is no longer willing to do so,” he underscored.
He also clarified that according to the UN agency’s data, there are, “precisely,” 474, 483 Somali refugees residing in Kenya and not 610, 000 documented ones as Deputy President William Ruto said on Sunday.
“In the five camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp complex in north-eastern Kenya, there are more than 388, 000 Somali refugees. There are 54, 000 Somali refugees in Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya and 32, 500 living in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi,” the UNHCR statement reads.
On Sunday the Deputy President also said that there could be up to another 500, 000 undocumented refugees within Kenya’s borders.
Ever since Kenyan Defence Forces captured Kismayu, believed to be the operational centre of the Al Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, the Kenyan government has been pushing the UNHCR on the repatriation of Somali refugees.
The government has made it clear that the continued hosting of Somali refugees now comes at too high a cost given the spike in terror attacks on Kenya.
“It is not the tradition for an African country to complain about visitors, especially those fleeing from danger. Even so, the large number of undocumented refugees, as well as the sheer magnitude of the entire refugee burden has created unprecedented security challenges for Kenya,” Ruto said on Sunday.
Being left without much choice the UNHCR now says it is focused on ensuring the repatriation exercise is carried out, “in safety and dignity.”
The agreement signed on Sunday will see the Kenyan and Somali governments as well as the UNHCR put in place a plan for the repatriation and reintegration of the Somali refugees housed in Kenya, establish how much that will cost and marshall those funds from the international community.