NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 17- The Government has announced that 13,604 Somali refugees have voluntarily returned to Somalia while 439 others have been resettled in other countries since May.
According to a joint communiqué issued by Kenya together with the Federal Republic of Somalia and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a newly formed Somalia Technical Committee will oversee the effective reintegration of the returnees.
The revelations were made during a meeting that saw a raft of measures adopted, to ensure the repatriation process was effective while calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to co-ordinate the efforts within Somalia, specifically on development assistance for returning refugees.
A sub-committee has since been formed to analyze the pledges made so far by the donors and report to the Joint Sub- Committee, which comprises of the Government of Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR.
During the meeting, the three parties, “acknowledged the need to explore possibilities of having additional exit and entry points to facilitate the repatriation process. In this regard, Mandera and Belet-Hawa were suggested for consideration.”
The leaders also agreed on a regular schedule meetings, “preferably on a monthly basis.
The next meeting would be held in Kismayo after UN high level of meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants and the Leaders Summit on Refugees in New York and the UNHCR EXCOM in Geneva.”
It also agreed to call for a Joint Donor Forum to be co-hosted by the relevant Ministers from both Governments, while the Joint Sub-Committee was mandated to come up with a comprehensive list of donors.
Kenya has been hosting more than 350,000 Somali refugees for more than two decades.
On June 12, President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that the decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp was driven by national security interests.
Besides the Dadaab camp itself, the President said, the refugees extend their threats of terrorism, radicalization, recruitment and environmental degradation to the neighbouring counties.
He called on the EU members to continue partnering with Kenya to assist Somalia rehabilitate the returning refugees and rebuild their country.
The President said Kenya has over the past 20 years carried a huge responsibility over the Somalia crisis adding it was now time to assist the Somalis go back to their country.