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Kenya likely to Miss Self-Imposed Deadline of November 30 to Close Dadaab Refugee Camp

The UNHCR and humanitarian agencies have come under pressure to suspend the repatriation process until the situation in Somalia improves

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FILE - Somali refugees walk through an area housing new arrivals, on the outskirts of Hagadera Camp outside Dadaab, Kenya. VOA
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A Kenyan official has said the country may not be able to meet its self-imposed deadline of November 30 to close the huge Dadaab refugee camp. Tens of thousands of Somalis have left the camp in recent months, but they are finding it impossible to scratch out a living back in Somalia.

Monday, Reuters news agency quoted an Kenyan interior ministry official as saying the deadline for closing Dadaab will not be met, because Somalia cannot provide basic services to the returnees.

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The ministry has not issued an official statement, and the spokesman declined to comment when contacted by VOA Tuesday.

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But it has become clear that Somalis returning home are facing dire humanitarian conditions, including a lack of shelter, clean water, health care and food.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than 34,000 refugees have gone back to Somalia, with most settling in the port city of Kismayo.

The vice chairman of the refugee and IDP agency in Somalia’s Jubaland region, Mohamed Noor, says there are no essential social services in place to cater for the returnees.

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Noor says the returnees had a good life, good health services, and their children were in school getting an education in Dadaab, but when they got to Kismayo there was nothing for them, so his agency decided to stop receiving people temporarily.

FILE - newly arrived Somali refugees wait outside a UNHCR processing center at the Ifo refugee camp outside Dadaab, eastern Kenya, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Somali border. VOA
FILE – newly arrived Somali refugees wait outside a UNHCR processing center at the Ifo refugee camp outside Dadaab, eastern Kenya, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Somali border. VOA

Jubaland authorities have refused to accept more returnees from Dadaab for the time being, saying they could not cope with the number of returnees.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa Michelle Kagari says Kenya’s government is coercing refugees to return to Somalia, where they risk being injured or killed in the chronic conflict.

“We have also reviewed the surveys done by the UNHCR, Kenya, and MSF which found a vast of Somalis in Dadaab did not want to return, so on that front we found out that these returns can in no way be seen as voluntary,” Kagari said.

Kismayo’s deputy mayor Abdi Ibrahim Abdi Barre agrees. He says there is nothing to show the returnees have received assistance. He says those repatriated from Dadaab were released to fend for themselves with a stipend that is not enough to live on and are back looking for support.

Some observers fear some of the returnees, mostly children and young men, may be forced to join al-Shabab.

FILE - parts of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, are seen from a helicopter in northern Kenya. VOA
FILE – parts of Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, are seen from a helicopter in northern Kenya. VOA

Kagari says some returnees faced threats and persecution for failing to cooperate with militants.

“There were two boys in particular whose father was killed in front of them they were forcefully recruited into al-Shabab they managed to escape after four months and made their way back to Kenya now they are being required to go back again … Anyone who is returned to Somalia will likely face persecution,” she said.

The UNHCR and humanitarian agencies have come under pressure to suspend the repatriation process until the situation in Somalia improves. (VOA)

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As Refugees Flee DR Congo, UN Steps Up to Reduce The Risk of Ebola

The UNHCR says refugees are at the same risk of contracting and transmitting the Ebola virus disease as local farmers, merchants, business people and others moving through the area.

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Ebola Congo, WHO
A Congolese health worker checks the temperature of a man before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The U.N. refugee agency reports it is stepping up efforts to reduce the risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus as refugees flee DR Congo. Latest estimates put the number of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in eastern DRC at 49, including 38 deaths.

The U.N. refugee agency is working closely with DRC authorities and other agencies on actions to contain Ebola on the national and regional level. But, its main focus is to monitor possible Ebola infections among refugees fleeing across the border, mainly to Uganda, from conflict ridden North Kivu and Ituri.

UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler says the number of newly arriving refugees into Uganda from these two Ebola affected provinces increased during July from 170 a day to 250 a day. He says the majority currently is crossing at the Kisoro border point.

A family sits outside in a neighborhood where three people died of Ebola last month, in Mbandaka, Congo, June 1, 2018. For the first time since the Ebola virus was identified more than 40 years ago, a vaccine has been dispatched to front line health workers.
A family sits outside in a neighborhood where three people died of Ebola last month, in Mbandaka, Congo,
VOA

“So UNHCR is working with WHO, UNICEF and other partners and with the Ministry of Health of Uganda to intensify screening for Ebola at all border entry points. And, additional health workers have been deployed in the border districts to improve response capacity,” he said.

Spindler notes the World Health Organization is not recommending any restriction on the movement of people. Therefore, he says UNHCR is urging countries neighboring DRC to allow refugees in need of protection to enter their territory and to include them into preparedness and response plans and activities.

Also Read: United Nations Security Council to Closse 13-year-old Haiti Peacekeeping Mission in October

The UNHCR says refugees are at the same risk of contracting and transmitting the Ebola virus disease as local farmers, merchants, business people and others moving through the area. Therefore, it urges governments and local communities not to adopt measures that single out refugees. Those measures may not be scientifically sound and will only serve to stigmatize and restrict refugees’ freedom of movement. (VOA)