Tuesday May 9, 2017
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
Somali refugees fetching water in Dadaab. A total of 62,372 Somalis have gone back to their homeland since a repatriation programme started in December 2014. FILE PHOTO | AFP
Smaller numbers of Somalis are returning to their homeland from the Dadaab camps, the United Nations refugee agency reported on Monday.
A total of 707 Somali refugees are reported to have left Dadaab in the second half of April as part of the UN’s voluntary repatriation initiative.
More than twice as many — 1,836 refugees — had returned to Somalia during the previous two weeks.
“This reduction could be attributed to the ongoing drought, the cholera outbreak and the recent heavy rains in Somalia,” the UN said.
At the same time, increasingly dire conditions in Somalia are driving a new set of refugees into the Dadaab complex.
Nearly 3,500 “undocumented individuals” had been counted in the camps as of April 30, the UN said.
It added that 999 of these persons had come to Dadaab as a result of the drought.
A UN effort to relocate non-Somali refugees from Dadaab to the Kakuma camps in Turkana County has meanwhile been suspended.
Almost 7,000 Ethiopians and other non-Somali nationals in Dadaab are registered for relocation to Kakuma, but transfers are not occurring at present “due to low turnout at both the relocation help desk and the medical screening centre,” the UN reported. “People not showing up for departures render flights uneconomical,” the refugee agency added.
Despite these developments, Dadaab’s total population continues to dwindle.
It stood at 247,798 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of April 30, compared to 248,719 as of April 15.
The Kenyan government has said it wants to close the 26-year-old Dadaab complex entirely due to alleged security threats emanating from the camps.
The UN refugee agency, along with the Somali and Kenyan governments, have jointly initiated a voluntary return programme in response to those concerns.
Since the launch of this tri-partite repatriation effort in December 2014, a total of 62,372 Somalis have gone back to their homeland, the UN said on Monday.
The rate of return could quicken once the rainy season ends.
Road convoys to Somalia are currently suspended due to heavy rains in some parts of the country, the UN said.
Refugees returning home are at present being flown to either Kismayu or Mogadishu, the UN noted.