With the closure of the world’s largest migrant camp in Kenya, thousands of Somali refugees could be forced to return to their war-ravaged homeland. The move has been branded a violation of international law.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Monday that what was supposed to be a voluntary returns process, involving mostly Somalis, did not meet international standards and that Kenya was violating international law.

“The pressure to push more than 280,000 registered refugees from the Dadaab camp has led to chaotic and disorganised returns,” said NRC secretary-general Jan Egeland.

“From what we have seen on the ground, it is no longer voluntary, dignified nor safe.”

Kenya, however, insists that the emptying of Dadaab, which is home to hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of them Somalis, is being carried out in line with international law.

The decision to voluntarily repatriate Somalis was made in 2013 under an agreement between the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Kenyan government and the federal government of Somalia.

The refugees are been returned to a country with already over one million displaced people, and where five million lack enough food to survive. Furthermore, African Union and Somali forces are still fighting al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabaab militants.

But returning refugees to a place where their lives or freedoms are at risk is illegal under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

‘Hotbed of Islamic terrorism’

The Kenyan government, which announced the closure of the camp in May, has cited security reasons behind the shutdown. Although Kenyan authorities have long alleged that the camp has been infiltrated by al-Shabaab and is a hotbed of Islamic terrorism, no evidence has been provided to support their claims.

Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the repatriation process saying it was “fuelled by fear and misinformation”.

Abukar Arman a political analyst specialising in African politics told FRANCE 24 that despite two decades of hosting hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees and being a key player in reconciliation talks, Kenya had squandered numerous opportunities to address security issues.

“While it is true that Kenya has security concerns, no Kenyan official is willing to address the root cause of such insecurity,” Arman said, referring to years of unresolved issues with the most recent being Kenya’s 2011 pursuit of militants from the al-Shabab group into Somalia.

‘A sustainable resettlement’

Human rights organisations worry about the reintegration of returning Somalis, with a whole generation of Somalis have grown up in the Dadaab camp having never set foot in their homeland.

The NRC said that apart from the involuntary nature of the returns, the volatile security situation in Somalia means that refugees going back cannot be guaranteed protection while basic services there are inadequate.

“The number of vulnerable Somalis planned for return far outstrips the resources available to support them in Somalia,” said NRC’s Kenya country director Neil Turner.

According to UNHCR statistics, between December 2014 and September 2016, a total of 30,731 Somali refugees from Dadaab underwent a voluntary return process. Out of that total, 24,630 have been returned this year alone, largely because of pressure to accelerate the repatriation process.

So far, the UNHCR has received only 27 percent of the $148.8 million it requested from international donors to support the reintegration of Somali returnees in 2016.

Closing Kenya’s Dadaab and its sister camp Kakuma would be the “equivalent to wiping out two large cities off the face of earth” Mark Yarnell, senior advocate at Refugees International explained to Somalia Newsroom.

Source: FRANCE 24 with AFP





  1. Very true. It is no longer voluntary but forced return. A colleague of mine went to the MRRR offices in Hargeisa requesting to be registered there. He got rebuke from a certain Omoro-speaking lady in that office. Can the Hon Ali Saed please tell this silly lady to please shut up. She is a total disgrace to the people of Somaliland. She deserves NOT to be there in the first place and needs to be deported to Ethiopia. Even her fellow co-workers are fed up with her. She MUST go. A loud mouth who mistreats the voiceless and embarrasses the government of Somaliland and its wonderful people.

  2. I know that lady at MRRR Hargeisa. She is the head of that unit. Very difficult person to work with. So much ignorance and arrogance about her. Even her own workmates attest to this.

    Mudane Ali Saed, please get rid of this lady before it is too late. She will cost your ministry dearly if you do NOT act decisively now.

    Even a simple registration process is made so complex and difficult by this lady. Numerous complaints have been lodged against her.

    She has no business being there in the first place if she was born in Ethiopia. There are so many worthy Somalilander ladies who can do this job better than her and with a friendly smile.

    This stone-faced lady and her arrogance must be moved out. So many disgruntled and aggrieved people have said the same thing about her. I womder why they are still keeping her there. She is a liability to this Ministry.

    Tag nayaa. Nacasaad aya tahay. She has to GO or we will lobby to force her out ASAP. Believe you, it’ll be very EMBARASSING for her and the Ministry if they don’t act now.

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