I'll never return to Somalia, says refugee who returned to Kenya

Sunday December 24 2017

Mogadishu bomb attack

A man reacts on the site where a car bomb exploded at the centre of Mogadishu in Somalia on October 14, 2017. PHOTO |MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB | AFP 

By ABDIMALIK HAJIR
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A refugee who returned to Dadaab refugee complex after voluntary going back to Somalia, vowed never to go back to her country.

In an emotional interview with the Nation on Sunday, Mrs Jamila Hassan Abdi said the October 14 terrorist attack in Mogadishu, in which more than 400 people died, scared her and has changed her perception towards her country of birth.

TRAUMATISED

The mother of eight children, who is now back to the Ifo 2 Camp, said she is worried about her husband Ayub Abdullahi Abdi, who was traumatised following the terror attack at Sobe junction, a few blocks from her house.

She now watches him carefully as he sometimes wonders from their home. Mrs Abdi could not hold back tears during the interview as she recalled the attack and how it affected her family. She clutched tightly onto her three-month-old baby on her lap while surrounded by her seven other children.

"I lived five houses from where the attack happened. I saw mutilated bodies being taken away from the scene, a memory that has refused to go away. I would never wish to remember that attack," she told the Nation.

"When the huge explosive went off, some of my children were playing outside. I thought they were among those killed in the attack, luckily they were not."

SURVIVAL

Mrs Abdi told the Nation that when the voluntary repatriation of refugees was announced, she registered her family to travel back to Somalia on April 2016 because they were assured of improved security in the country.

She had fled Mogadishu in 2010 due to civil war. She came back to the camp in early November after the bombing and was helped to sneak back into Kenya as a refugee.

Mrs Abdi, however, faces discrimination from among refugees.

"I will never go back to Somalia. Even if all refugee camps are closed, I will stay behind where I can stay in peace, where sounds of explosions are unheard. I don't even want to remember what I went through in Somalia," she said.

Mrs Abdi said she now lives on the mercy of well-wishers in the camps as she was not fully registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"I have only been given a card by UNHCR but I have not heard from them so we only depend on neighbours for survival," she said.

REASONS

Denis Alma Kuindje, UNHCR's senior protection coordinator at Dadaab sub-office, said the agency was aware that some repatriated refugees have returned to the Kenya.

He said they are now seeking to know why they back, adding that there are some security concerns.

"Repatriation of refugees is purely voluntary and UNHCR is only facilitating them. It should also be understood that refugees can change [their] mind any time whether they want or do not want to go back to their home country," Mr Kuindje said.

He said the UN refugee agency is not taking lightly the return of refugees after facilitating their repatriation.