NEW YORK/UNITED NATIONS
An ambitious plan to repatriate some 150,000 Somali refugees from the Dadaab camp headed into turbulence after officials in Somalia prevented returnees from moving beyond a post on the country's border with Kenya.
As many as 1200 Somalis who recently left Dadaab are being held at the Dhobley transition centre, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency said on Thursday.
“This situation is quite unfortunate,” commented spokesman Julien Navarre.
The impasse threatens a tri-partite agreement involving Kenya, Somalia and the UN refugee agency whereby large numbers of Somali refugees are to be resettled in their homeland this year as part of Kenya's push to close Dadaab entirely.
News of the detention of returnees at Dhobley will have “a strong impact” on the nearly 350,000 remaining residents of Dadaab, Mr Navarre said.
“We have to be able to deliver the right messages in Dadaab,” he added.
UN representatives are meeting with Kenyan and Somali authorities in an effort to allow voluntary repatriations to resume in keeping with the three-year-old tri-partite agreement, Mr Navarre noted.
The interior and security minister of the Jubaland autonomous region of Somalia said earlier this week that inadequate humanitarian aid for the returnees had led local officials to block their passage.
Thousands of Somalis who earlier left Kenya are experiencing “severe humanitarian challenges” in Kismayo and other destinations in southern Somalia, Minister Mohamed Warsmae Darwish told Voice of America.
“They are transported from Dadaab with trucks and once they reach Somalia they are given $200,” Gen Darwish said. “That is it. They do not have the basic human necessities such as water, food and shelter.”
UN refugee spokesman Navarre did not dispute Gen Darwish's account. “We are doing our best to move forward with the repatriation programme,” he said.