More Somali refugee families at the Dadaab refugee camps in northeast Kenya are trickling back to their motherland because of relative peace in the war torn Somalia.
A refugee mother and her child [left] walk past an armed police at Dadaab. Amina Ali, who does’t want to return to Somalia, feeds her one-year-old daughter [right] outside her makeshift tent at the Dagahaley refugee camp, part of the Dadaab complex in northeastern Kenya. XINHUA PHOTOS – SUN RUIBO and STEPHEN INGATI
The latest group to board a UN-chartered plane to Mogadishu was 41 individuals from seven families who have lived at the Ifo refugee camp for the past two and half decades.
Among them was Yussuf Ahmed Osman, 35, who hails from Banader region in Mogadishu.
Osman could not hide his joy.
He told journalists at the world’s largest refugee settlement that he was delighted to be going back home.
Senior government officials who toured the camps on Monday held talks with the families to wish the well.
Osman, who arrived in the camp when he was barely 10 years old, sat for his secondary education in 2011 and has been a voluntary teacher in the camp since then.
He said it was time for them to join kinsmen in re-building their motherland.
“We are happy that there is relative peace in Somalia.
And as the saying goes, East or West home is best.
“I want to join the rest of Somali citizens in re-building our mother land,” Osman told journalists.
He said one of the things that prompted him to return back home was the lack of job opportunities for refugees and the dwindling support by UN agencies operating the refugee camps.
“We used to receive at least three rations in a month and life was then bearable, but as we speak, this ration has been reduced to once a month, which can barely sustain a family,” Osman said.
He, however, thanked the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the Kenyan government for the support they have extended to desperate refugees during their stay at the camps.
“In as much we have been treated well, living in a country as a refugee without other opportunities to empower yourself economically is a bit tricky,” said Osman, who only speaks English and his native Somalia language.
According to UNHCR, security and socio-economic conditions in many parts of Somalia are not right for large-scale returns.
Many refugees remain doubtful about returning, but some are eager to leave life in exile behind and help rebuild their country.
To end one of the world’s most complex refugee situations, it is vital to make sure that the small number of returns can be successful and contribute to a more peaceful and stable Somalia.
The group of 41 who included mostly women and children were accompanied in their flight to Mogadishu by UNHCR and Kenyan government officials.
On landing, they were handed over to UNHCR Somalia who in turn presented them to Somali government officials for resettlement after which they will automatically surrender their refugee status.
According to UNHCR, over 5,000 people have so far voluntarily retuned back home since the program started in December 2013.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaisery’s visit to the camps follows growing concern that the refugee camps are being used for recruiting, aiding and planning of terror attacks in the country by Al-Shabaab terror group.
At one time, the Kenyan government threatened to shut down the camps following persistent terror attacks in the country.
Over 2 million Somalis remain displaced in the region, including some 1.1 million in their own country and 967,000 as refugees in the neighbouring countries.
The majority (420,000) are living in Kenya, mostly in the five refugee camps in Dadaab in the north-east of the country.
Nearly 250,000 Somali refugees live in Ethiopia, an estimated 240,000 in Yemen, while over 29,000 are in Uganda and nearly 12,000 in Djibouti.
Aerial view of Dagahaley refugee camp, part of the in Dadaab complex in north eastern Kenya. XINHUA PHOTO – STEPHEN INGATI