Kenya urges relief agencies to relocate to Somalia


The Kenyan government on Saturday called on international agencies providing humanitarian services to thousands of Somali refugees in Dadaab to relocate to Somalia.

Cabinet Secretary in charge of internal security Joseph ole Lenku called on the agencies to prepare to provide the services to refugees who will be repatriated back to the Horn of Africa nation starting in January 2014.

“The Nongovernment Organizations working in the Dadaab refugee camp should move their services into Somalia to enable the returning refugees go on with their lives,” Lenku said at Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest refugee settlement.

The remarks come after UNHCR, Kenya and Somali governments on Nov. 10 signed an agreement laying out the framework by which Somali refugees in Kenya could return to their homeland.

The agreement comes amid reports that between 30,000 and 80,000 Somali refugees have spontaneously returned to south-central Somalia since January.

There will be no vetting process, the UN refugee agency confirmed, other than to check the nationality of the person. A Tripartite Commission will be established, per the agreement, to oversee the implementation of its provisions.

Lenku also stressed that the repatriation process of the Somali refugees who have been living at the camp for more than two decades will go on as scheduled.

The cabinet secretary made it clear to thousands of refugees, who had petitioned the government to stop the planned repatriation process, that the exercise is irreversible.

“We will not change our plans. There is no turning back. It is time to say good bye and wish you the best as you go back home. Go and help your country rebuild,” Lenku said.

“Stopping the repatriation process is not possible and it must go on,” he told refugees, local leaders and UNHCR country officials.

The East African nation is hosting about 500,000 Somali refugees, the majority of whom are in the large Dadaab refugee camps complex in the north-east of the country.

On Nov. 13, ten international aid agencies working in search for durable solutions for Somali refugees in Kenya pledged to work with the UNHCR to ensure sustainable reintegration of the refugees in areas of return.

In a joint statement issued in Nairobi, the agencies, which included the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), INTERSOS, Action Contra la Faim (ACF) and Tear Fund called on the governments of Kenya and Somalia to consider benchmarks based on a conducive environment and the viability of return.

The organizations said the governments should safeguard the global principle of non-refoulement in the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement.

The agencies expressed hope that a common understanding exists among all stakeholders that the current context in Somalia is not conducive for the mass return of refugees.

“Today, only few pockets of Somalia are safe for return. The agencies look forward to continued consultation and engagement in the processes and plans around solutions and the practical implications of the Tripartite Agreement,” the statement said.

However, Lenku said the two governments, along with the UN refugee agency, had considered many issues before signing the tripartite agreement to start the repatriation process.

Source:Xinhua Net