Somali refugees are not moving out of the country any time soon. The United Nations says no other country is willing to take the refugees for resettlement because of security concerns while those in Nairobi and Dadaab do not want to go back home. The UN now wants Kenya to take more responsibility for the refugees as the international law requires including allocating more finances to refugee programmes.
A new report prepared by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees wants refugee issues separated from political rhetoric. “The process needs to be clearly separated from political discussions and be purely based on legal, technical and practical considerations,” reads the document. According to the UN document, the Government seems to have been telling the public one thing over refugees’ stay in the country while practically doing the opposite in the background.
For example, when last year the former Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku was publicly chasing away refugees, on July 1 the same year, the local commissioners for refugees effected the Kenya Refugees Act 2006. The Act spells out the right of refugees, making it impossible for the country to legally kick them out.
The UN also throws cold water on Kenya’s much hyped voluntary repatriation as a significant option to get the Somalis back home.
Last year, the Government had targeted at voluntarily repatriating 80,000 Somali refugees but only 485 were willing to return.
The UN says that one of the reasons there are few volunteers is the limited financial assistance they are being offered. Each volunteer is given Sh9,800 along with transportation to the border, shelter items and food support for three months.
The other option of Kenya getting rid of the Somalis legally, the UN says, would be their resettlement in industrialised countries. But this widow is also closing fast. “The readiness to continue to take refugees in large numbers, notably Somalis, out of Kenya, after many decades of doing so has declined among resettlement countries,” says the UN document.
The appetite to take Somali refugees, says the UN, among the resettlement countries has declined due to security concerns just as the case is in Kenya. “Security concerns have also limited the readiness of some resettlement countries to conduct selection missions to Kenya, especially at the Dadaab camp. This fear partially explains the sudden interest of the US in Kenya, which recently saw John Kerry the American Secretary of State visit both Nairobi and Somalia,” says the document.
The only legal option, the UN intimates, is to fully integrate the Somalis in Kenya. Working through civil groups, the UN report indicates donors are pushing the government to take full responsibility of the refugees. “Donors are encouraging the government to permit refugees to engage in economic activity as a crucial priority for the future,” says the UN.
To help the Government fully own the refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has spent Sh4.8 million since 2012 to fund a programme called Refugee Status Determination. Among others, the programme will hasten the registration of refugees currently said to take up to three years.
But although the local and international laws require that the host government takes full responsibility of refugees in its territory, the Somalis are generally opposed to the move.