26,819 Somali refugees have voluntarily announced their intention to return home amid Human Rights Watch and several aid agencies accused Kenya of forcing refugees at the Dadaab Camp to leave for Somalia against their will.
In its bi-monthly report released on Saturday, UNHCR said the refugees are waiting to be facilitated to return to the Horn of Africa nation.
The UN refugee agency confirmed the return of 2,525 Somali refugees who were supported to voluntarily return to Somalia by flight and road convoys from Sept. 16-30.
“In total as of Sept. 30, 32,949 Somali refugees had returned home since December 8, 2014, when UNHCR started supporting voluntary return of Somali refugees in Kenya, out of which 26,848 were supported in 2016 alone,” said the report.
According to the UNHCR, road convoys were suspended from Aug. 30, after the Jubbaland administration notified UNHCR Somalia about their decision not to receive any more returnees until integration processes inside Somalia are addressed.
“The road convoys still remain suspended and refugees are not currently travailing by road any more. Similarly, the flight departures to Mogadishu has been suspended on Sept. 25 because of security related issues in Mogadishu, but flight departures are expected to resume once the security context improves,” UNHCR said.
The report comes after number of international aid agencies said a vast majority of refugees do not want to go back to Somalia and urged Kenya thus to consider alternatives to closing down the Dadaab camp.
Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) said repatriation was “fueled by fear and misinformation.” Returning refugees to a place where their lives or freedoms are at risk is illegal under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said its findings raise doubts about the voluntary nature of the repatriation programme being carried out by the Kenyan government and the UNHCR.
“It is unacceptable that, without any other solution being offered, thousands are essentially being pushed back into conflict and acute crisis — the very conditions they fled,” said Liesbeth Aelbrecht, the head of the MSF mission in Kenya.
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said last Monday that “the voluntary returns process does not meet international standards.”
“The pressure to push more than 280,000 registered refugees from Dadaab camp has led to chaotic and disorganized returns,” said NRC secretary-general Jan Egeland. “From what we have seen on the ground, it is no longer voluntary, dignified nor safe.”