Repatriation Cont.

For some time, I have been following the issue of Somali refugees in Kenya being forced to return to Somalia, and I was a major contributor to the HIPS report ‘Hasty Repatriation: Kenya’s attempt to send Somali refugees home.’ While researching for this report, we interviewed over 40 people in Dadaab, Nairobi, and Mogadishu on the status of refugees. I was concerned during my research to see that the Kenyan government had issued a directive in December 2012 requiring all refugees in the towns and cities of Kenya to relocate to refugee camps. For most Somali refugees in Kenya, this has meant that they were required to return to Dadaab refugee camp.

Over the course of my research in December 2012-January 2013, I conducted interviews with Somali refugees both in the Eastsleigh district of Nairobi as well as the three main refugee camps that make up the Dadaab complex. Many of those interviewed expressed real fear of living in Kenya in light of the growing insecurities on the one hand and a crackdown from the Kenyan police who are reported to resorting to unlawful treatment.

At the same time, it was also clear that many refugees were unsure how they would fare returning to Somalia. I was told by representatives of the Somali government that they were drafting a plan to relocate many of the refugees across the border by setting up camps near Beled Hawo.  This course of action will have serious implications for those relocated, since they will change legal status and become Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs). While conditions in Dadaab are not perfect, IDP camps in Somalia are more insecure and are already overcrowded, with numerous reports of rape and robbery. It is unclear that the Somali government will be able to accommodate this influx of IDPs, since they are already struggling to relocate current IDPs from Mogadishu to the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The Somali government and the Kenya government continue to be in talks on how to best repatriate the estimated 600,000 Somali refugees in Kenya.  Kenya and Somalia have formed a task force to address the details of repatriating and resettling Somali refugees from Kenya back to Somalia. This task force must keep in mind the social and political conditions facing refugees and IDPs within the two countries as well as the state capacity currently available to address this issue. Some plans, while decent in theory, may well be unfeasible given the resources available.

Whilst the Somali government is happy to receive refugees returning, the reality is that they are simply unprepared to absorb a large number of returnees. Returnees currently face a host of problems, including crime, poverty, and a lack of social support. Furthermore, their return presents a host of problems, particularly land disputes, which the courts and other government institutions are not prepared to address at this time. The Somali government should focus on acquiring the infrastructure and resources to provide social  services to returnees before seeking to relocate more refugees.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Jane Maina
    Posted October 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Grateful if you could send me a copy of the HIPS report “Hasty Repatriation…” I am a humanitarian worker in Dadaab refugee camp and keen on taking on further research in this area. Your report could provide background information.

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