17,000 refugees in Dadaab willing to go back to Somalia – UNHCR

Tuesday December 26 2017

Somali refugees in Kenya.

A Somali refugee on December 19, 2017 sits with his family among others who have volunteered to be repatriated back to Somalia from the Dadaab refugee camp. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP 

By ABDIMALIK HAJIR
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About 17,000 more refugees have said they are willing to voluntarily go back to Somalia.

Kenya, Somalia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a tripartite agreement on November 10, 2013 for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees living in Kenya.

HOME

Speaking at his Dadaab sub-office, UNHCR's senior protection coordinator Denis Alma Kuindje said more than 75,000 refugees have been gone back to Somalia under the programme.

Mr Kuindje said UNHCR is only assisting refugees who are willing to go back home and not promoting the repatriation.

"Since the process started, the number of refugees in the camps has been going down due to spontaneous return of refugees to Somalia. It's important to note that UNHCR is only facilitating safe return to areas considered safe," he said.

Mr Kuindje said return to Baidoa has been suspended due to severe drought and cholera. Refugees are returning to their home towns of Mogadishu, Dinsor and Kismayu.

RETURNED

The official acknowledged that some refugees have returned to the refugee camps after being facilitated to go back to Somalia.

He said they are not taking the matter lightly and would like to find out why they came back.

"We collect information from those who come back to the camps and even the new arrivals; there are areas that still have security concerns and lack of social amenities," he said.

GRATEFUL

While boarding a Kismayu-bound flight, some of the refugees the Nation interviewed said they saw it fit to return to Somalia despite instances of insecurity in some areas.

"Nothing has forced me to go back. I have spent seven years in Ifo 2 Refugee Camp. There is still insecurity in some areas but nothing can replace home," said Hassan Abdullahi.

The father of four thanked the Kenyan government for hosting refugees for more than 20 years and donors and the UNHCR for giving them necessities to survive.