Kenya: IGAD Summit approves master plan on Somali refugee assistance

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - East African leaders have agreed on a comprehensive refugee assistance plan and called on world leaders to act urgently to stop a looming famine in Somalia, which is struggling to return to political normalcy after 26 years of civil conflict, PANA reported Saturday.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Summit on Somali refugees adopted a communiqué calling for the resettlement of the Somali refugees and the adoption of a Nairobi Comprehensive Plan of Action for Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees.

The Nairobi Plan offers hope to nearly a million Somali refugees living in the region, who would be assisted to access jobs and to integrate with local communities.

In the communiqué, adopted at the end of the Summit on Saturday, the leaders agreed to create an enabling environment for the safe, sustainable and voluntary return and reintegration of the Somali refugees.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) immediately disowned the idea of supporting the mass repatriation of Somali refugees to a country facing drought and possible famine by July.

“We recognize this is very complex. We will not promote and provoke the returns to Somalia. However, we shall not abandon those who decide to return,” said George Okoth-Obbo, the UNHCR Assistant Commissioner in charge of Operations, at the close of the IGAD Summit.

At least 60,000 Somali refugees have voluntarily returned to Somalia since the Kenyan authorities commenced the voluntary returns.

The UNHCR said the mass returns would likely worsen the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

However, the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, said the refugee camp was no longer serving the purpose for which it was meant because of the severe humanitarian situation within the camps.

The Kenyan leader said the time to end the suffering of the Somali refugees was to help them return home.

Kenya pledged to provide US$1 million for the training of the Somali refugees, geared towards nurses and teachers to help strengthen the capacity of the government to provide services.

The IGAD Summit resolved that measures to assist refugees would include enhancing the security within the camps and out of camp settlement of the refugees.

“We agree to maintain solidarity and generosity of states and communities in the region towards Somai refugees by committing to continue to provide asylum to persons in need of international protection and durable solutions,” read the communiqué.

The planned mass repatriation of the Somali refugees was approved by the Summit, but there was no unanimous approval on it.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the situation in the country was still dire.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 25March2017  

25 march 2017 20:02:47

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