Kenya: UNHCR boss discusses Somali refugees in Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has discussed solutions for Somali refugees in Kenya and received assurances that their return to back home in Somalia would not contravene international obligations, the UN refugee agency has announced.

It said Grandi, on his first visit to Kenya and Somalia, came as the Kenyan Government announced plans to close the Dadaab Refugee Camp, home to nearly 350,000, mostly Somali, refugees.

Kenya has been hosting the world’s largest refugee camp for a quarter century, and has consistently welcomed refugees from other conflicts, most recently from South Sudan.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that following Grandi's meeting on Sunday with Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, he welcomed the Kenyan President's his assurances that the country would uphold its long-standing reputation for respecting the rights of refugees.  

“I was very happy to hear the President say emphatically that any solution – and repatriation is obviously the best solution – has to be conducted in a manner that is humane, dignified, safe and respects international law and principles,” said Grandi.

He noted that the international donor support to Kenya and especially the local hosting communities had been generous, but insufficient to cover all the needs, and pledged continued engagement by the UN Refugee Agency.

In 2013, Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR signed a Tripartite Agreement to help Somali refugees from Dadaab begin voluntarily returning home to nine designated areas in South Central regions and in Puntland and Somaliland that are deemed relatively safe. More than 14,000 have returned so far and thousands more have signed up to leave.

However, many other refugees who may be willing to go back cite concerns about having the means to rebuild their homes and start businesses. They are also worried that sufficient education and healthcare would not be available in their home communities. In response, Grandi is proposing to increase the repatriation package for returning refugees and to provide them with support to pay for basic services.

The statement said during a visit to the Dadaab Refugee Camp, refugees told the High Commissioner that they would like to go home, but only when their towns were safe.

It said on Saturday, the High Commissioner travelled to Somalia, where he met Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The President said all Somali refugees were welcome back and confirmed his commitment to an “orderly, humane and dignified repatriation” of his citizens as specified under the Tripartite Agreement.

The statement said he concurred with the need to improve conditions in places of return. He also emphasized the need to do more for the over one million internally displaced people in Somalia, who were unable to return home because of ongoing instability and presence of Al Shabaab.

Grandi also visited Baidoa, Somalia, to meet with former refugees from the Dadaab Camp who recently returned home. Though most said they are glad to be back, they also acknowledged their homecoming was difficult.
-0- PANA MA 13June2015

13 june 2016 08:00:05

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