Kenya, Somalia and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) have formed a commission to expedite repatriation of refugees at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, in northeastern Kenya.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed, told a press conference in Nairobi that the tripartite commission will begin formal discussions on the repatriation exercise.
“We have already established a pilot project to encourage refugees to return to safe parts in Somalia,” Mohamed said.
The official said the UNHCR will convene a conference next month during which international donors will be requested to mobilize funds for the repatriation of the Somali refugees.
“We hope to begin the repatriation as soon as funds are available from international donors,” Mohamed said.
She said that so far 50,000 refugees have returned voluntarily to Somalia since 2013.
“We are encouraged because none of the refugees have returned to Kenya and it is a sign that parts of Somalia have been stabilized,” Mohamed said.
Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed a three-year agreement in 2013 on repatriation of the Somali refugees that are voluntary to go back home. Official figures show there are about 400,000 Somali refugees in Kenya currently.
Mohamed said the host communities of the refugees will also be involved in the discussions.
“Once the refugees return (to Somalia), the remaining infrastructure of the refugee camp will be upgraded so that it can be used by the locals,” she said.
The UNHCR Kenya Representative, Raouf Mazou, said “the refugees are willing to return back to Somalia so long as their security in Somalia is guaranteed”, adding the international community is obliged to find a lasting solution to the Somali refugees in Kenya.
Somali Foreign Affairs Minister Abdusalam Omer said the Somali government is supporting Kenya’s efforts to repatriate the refugees who are willing to go back home.
The Somali government is expanding the areas that is safe from the threat of the ‘al-Shabaab’ militant group so that the refugees can return, Omer said.
“We want them to return so that they can help rebuild Somalia which suffered many years of instability,” he said.
He also thanked Kenya for hosting the refugees for more than 24 years.