About 2,500 refugees living in the Dadaab camp are set to be relocated to Somalia by the end of October.
The repatriation is part of an agreement signed last year between Kenya, Somalia and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
According to the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA), this first batch of refugees will be voluntarily returned but will also be used to test the viability of returning all the 339,606 Somali refugees registered at the camp.
“We want to ensure that things go smoothly so that the refugees do not keep coming back to Kenya,” Commissioner for Refugees Haron Komen told the Nation last week.
“There are two groups; those people who are going back to their homes and others that need to be settled because they lost everything in the 2010-2011 drought,” the commissioner added.
Signed in November last year, the agreement is supposed to have led to the resettlement of some of the refugees by now.
But Somalia’s volatile situation, huge financial requirements and lengthy negotiations have delayed the plan.
Mr Komen admitted that a number of issues remain unresolved, even though he argued that all the three parties have shown “full” commitment to implement it.
Under the Tripartite Agreement, the parties were to hold consultations, contribute the cash required and see to it that refugees are encouraged, but not forced, to return home. Dadaab Refugee Camp hosts about 400,000 refugees, many of whom are Somalis.
The UNHCR says the pilot repatriation is meant to help identify the challenges of conducting such a programme.
WHERE TO STAY
“The main challenge is that the majority of refugees in Kenya are from South and Central Somalia. The volatile situation in these parts of the country has hindered the refugees from considering a return home,” UNHCR-Kenya spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera told the Nation.
Since the deal was signed, Somalia and Kenya have been haggling on where the refugees should stay once in Somalia. At one point, Somalia wanted those who agree to return but have nowhere to go to be resettled in Mogadishu.
The Kenyan government on the other hand preferred areas near Kismayu and went ahead to hold negotiations with the Jubbaland administration on the same.
Somalia later agreed to Kenya’s suggestion.
Source: Daily Nation