UNHCR welcomes Dadaab closure extension
The statement by the Government of Kenya on its continued search for solutions for refugees at Dadaab is welcome.
Kenya has been generously hosting and protecting Somali refugees over many years in line with its international obligations. We are glad that this remains Kenya’s position.
Regarding Somali refugees in Kenya who are choosing to return to Somalia, we are pleased to note Kenya’s commitment to voluntary, human, safe and dignified returns in accordance with international law. The voluntariness of returns is key.
For years, UNHCR has been involved in the search for long-term solutions to the situation at Dadaab. On 25 June 2016, UNHCR and the governments of Kenya and Somalia agreed to an Action Plan in this regard.
Since 2014 some 35,000 Somali refugees have been supported in returning voluntarily to Somalia. A verification exercise, undertaken between July and August, confirmed a population of 283,558 refugees at Dadaab, 58,000 fewer than previously.
Another 40,500 people who either possess or are on record as having applied for Kenyan identity cards, were identified. UNHCR also commenced the relocation of 14,000 non-Somali refugees to the Kakuma/Kalobeyei settlement in Turkana.
In addition, 16,000 refugees awaiting resettlement clearances will have these procedures finalized to enable departure from Kenya to third countries.
UNHCR now appeals to the Government of Kenya to show flexibility on the timeframe for the different elements of the plan, including on returns to Somalia. Rigid timeframes will be difficult to meet.
For solutions to be genuinely voluntary people must be properly informed, and able to make their individual decisions free from pressure and in full awareness of the facts.
UNHCR will continue to fulfill its responsibilities and work with the Government in pursuing the most appropriate options.
Therefore, UNHCR urges all stakeholders to focus attention on the implementation of the Action Plan in all its dimensions, including inside Somalia and in the region.
It is for this reason that High Commissioner Grandi recently appointed a Special Envoy for the Somali refugee situation, Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey.
A crucial element for the success of the Action Plan is for the international community to make adequate investments in Somalia in support of its progress towards security and stability.
This must include much stronger assistance for the integration of returnees together with increased efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate internal displacements.