UN agency says Somali repatriation process must be voluntary


New York, US (PANA) – The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said the agreement signed earlier this month between the agency and the Governments of Somalia and Kenya supports the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees.

The UN refugee agency spokesperson, Mr. Adrian Edwards, Wednesday reiterated that the parties were not forcing anyone to return to Somalia, noting: “UNHCR does not support forced returns.”

“This understanding was reaffirmed last Friday, when the Kenyan and Somali refugee commissioners, Mr. Badu Katelo and Mr. Ahmed Nur, visited Dadaab refugee camp.

“UNHCR works and speaks with the refugees daily, but this visit provided the refugees with an opportunity to ask high-level Somali officials about the areas to which they are considering returning with some lively informal discussions in addition to town hall meetings,” the spokesperson added.

He disclosed that the visit followed the 10 Nov. signing of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR as well as the Kenyan and Somali governments which laid out the framework by which Somali refugees in Kenya could return to their homeland.

“It specified that all returns should be voluntary and take place in safety and dignity. In addition, it stressed that there would be no vetting of the refugees returning home, and no deadline set for the returns,” he noted.

Mr. Edwards also said the implementation of voluntary repatriation would initially concentrate on supporting refugees who are spontaneously returning to Somalia.

“At the time of the signing of the agreement, between 30,000 and 80,000 Somali refugees had spontaneously returned to south-central Somalia since January,”he added.

Kenya hosts some 470,000 Somali refugees, the majority of whom are in the large Dadaab refugee camps complex in the North-east of the country.