Kenya: Kenyan govt forcing Somali refugees to abandon Dadaab camp

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) -The Kenyan government is forcing Somali refugees to return home but the resettlement process remains far from voluntary, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Monday in a report.

NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland said an internationally agreed timeline for ensuring a dignified return by the Somali refugees was required urgently in order to avoid the potential violation of human rights.

In May, the Kenyan government announced it planned to shut down Dadaab Refugee Camp, the world's largest settlement of refugees, currently housing some 335,000 Somali refugees.

Kenyan authorities maintain the camp provides a hideout for the planning of terror attacks inside Kenya.

“The deadline to close the world’s largest refugee camp must be lifted,” Egeland said, when the NRC released a new report, which criticized the forced return of Somali refugees from Dadaab camp to Somalia.

The NRC said the process was no longer voluntary, safe or dignified.

The report, titled 'Dadaab’s Broken Promise', said the decision by the Government of Kenya in May to close Dadaab refugee camps in November has led to a situation where the voluntary return process does not meet international standards.

NRC argued that the forced returns broke the agreement  that Somalis would be assisted to return home safely and voluntarily, which was reached in 2013 between Kenya, Somalia and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“We are willing and able to enable voluntary return, but the pressure to push more than 280,000 registered refugees from Dadaab camp has led to chaotic and disorganized returns. From what we have seen on the ground, it is no longer voluntary, dignified nor safe,” said Egeland.

“Refugees in Dadaab need international protection. The Kenyan government and the UN refugee agency should reinstate the organized and voluntary process of return under the Tripartite Agreement. The unrealistic deadline must be removed before the situation further deteriorates,” he asserted.

Over 80 percent of the population in Somalia live in poverty and over one million people are internally displaced. Basic social services and infrastructure are mostly non-existent or at best limited.

NRC warned the security situation in many areas inside Somalia remain fluid.

“The initial returns programme under the 2013 Tripartite Agreement was largely a success, as it saw Somalis would be assisted to reach their return locations safely and with dignity. We should return to the terms of this agreement, rather than simply aiming to push back as many refugees as possible,” said Egeland.

NRC’s new report highlighted the major failures of the current returns process. In addition to failing to meet international standards for voluntary return, the report found that refugees returning to Somalia were not sufficiently protected. It also revealed that the pressure to speed up the repatriation process threatened to create a revolving door scenario.

“The number of vulnerable Somalis planned for return far outstrips the resources available to support them in Somalia,” warned Neil Turner, NRC’s Country Director in Kenya. “Sustainable return should form a key component of the returns programme. It must prevent families ending up in displacement camps in Somalia or returning as undocumented refugees to Kenya.”

An overwhelming 74 per cent of Somali refugees in Dadaab said in August that they ere not willing to return yet, largely fearing insecurity in Somalia.

-0- PANA AO/AR 10Oct2016

10 october 2016 18:28:28

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