60 000 Somali refugees go home

2013-07-10 22:09

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - Tens of thousands of Somali refugees have returned home as security in their homeland has improved, the United Nations said on Wednesday, saying it would support a further 60 000 refugees who are ready to go back.

The number of refugees from Somalia - 1.1 million - is a third of those from Afghanistan and Syria. Around half of them live in squalid, overcrowded camps in neighbouring Kenya's arid north.

Kenya is keen to repatriate them because it believes that militants have used refugee camps as bases to launch attacks since it sent soldiers to Somalia in 2011 to drive out Islamist rebels linked to al-Qaeda.

Alongside other African troops, the military push drove the al-Shabaab group out of major centres, although it still controls swathes of countryside.

At least 20 000 Somalis have returned from neighbouring countries this year, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, although it warned that some returns may be temporary. The UNHCR has also helped more than 16 000 internally displaced Somalis get home this year.

"This is a moment of hope for Somalia," UNHCR head Antonio Guterres said.

"Tens of thousands have indeed spontaneously returned to Somalia. And this is something we cannot ignore and this is something that requires from us an adequate response."

Somalia is attempting to rebuild after two decades of civil war and lawlessness, backed by international aid aimed at preventing it becoming a haven for al-Qaeda-style militants.

In a meeting on Wednesday with Kenya's minister of interior, Guterres proposed a phased repatriation plan, starting with support to an estimated 60,000 spontaneous returnees followed by a pilot project assisting group returns to safe areas.

Forcibly relocate

"We came to a very clear, common understanding of the way to go forward in relation to Somali refugees," he said.

There was an outcry in December when the Kenyan government announced plans to forcibly relocate some 100 000 refugees living in urban areas to camps. The High Court blocked the move.

The Kenyan government is organising an international conference in August to discuss Somali refugee repatriation.

The country plays host to the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, with a population of 430 000 people, down from a peak of 540 000 in 2011 when there was an influx of Somalis fleeing famine conditions.

Most refugees come from south central Somalia, where security remains fragile.

"Conditions are not yet safe for a rushed, large-scale repatriation," UNHCR said in a statement, adding that Jubaland, where Kenyan forces are fighting Islamic militants, is tense and that humanitarian agencies are unable to deliver aid there.

Read more on:    kenya  |  somalia  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.