NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday said immigrants living at the Dadaab Camp in Kenya were willing to return to Somalia voluntarily.
Speaking after launching a tripartite commission on the relocation in Nairobi, UNHCR said the next step was to ensure the refugees return safely and access to basic needs back in Somalia.
“All refugees in Dadaab want to return voluntarily and they want to be able to have access to basic services when they return and they want to have security when they return. This is what is being worked on and this is what we owe to them -finding durable solutions for refugees,” UNHCR said.
The UN agency further said the repatriation plan for Somali refugees started in November 2013 when Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement.
The three parties agreed that return of refugees to Somalia would be voluntary.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed who witnessed the launch of the tripartite commission at her office said the commission will discuss the relocation of the refugees within the next three months.
“The repatriation we are going to carry out is that of Somalis. We agreed we will do it as quickly as possible, before three months are over, but it will depend on available resources,” she explained.
During the meeting, the three partners agreed that the commission will scrutinise security issues and also other important factors that will boost their livelihoods and peaceful return.
“Both Kenya and Somali agree we want a peaceful Somalia- it’s our objective, we are doing it as partners UNHCR, Somalia and Kenya, we will meet as frequently as possible. We have an understanding and we are resolving issues,” Mohamed said.
She also said the repatriation did not only mean refugees returning to Somalia but also relocating some of them to Kakuma Refugee Camp to also implement the idea of having fewer refugee camps in the country.
According to Mohamed some 2,000 Somali refugees had voluntarily returned to home in one of the pilot programmes implemented.
She also said 50,000 others returned on their own will.
She explained that some Somali refugees escaped from their country due to famine and not just insecurity as it is widely perceived.
“Two hundred thousand of them came in 2011 and they fled from drought in Somalia, the 50,000 are part of that group of refugees that escaped drought and famine,” she said.
She proposed to UNHCR to hold a pledging conference where the donor community will be requested to raise resources that will support the repatriation process and also for the restoration of the Dadaab area used to host the refugees.
Somali Foreign Affairs Minister Abdusalam Omer who was also present said his country is ready to welcome back its people.
“We are ready to receive our people, we are ready for them to come home and we are ready to live side by side with Kenyan people and fight the extremist who are making life difficult for all of us,” he asserted.
Somalia, UNHCR and Kenya each nominated four members to the tripartite commission that will fastrack the repatriation programme for the refugees at the Dadaab camp.