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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

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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Vietnam Offering Support to Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Sustained aid from nations is necessary to continue WFP operations in Bangladesh, the UN agency warned

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Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wade past a waterlogged path leading to the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. VOA

United Nations World Food Programme in Bangladesh said it welcomed a new contribution of $50,000 from Vietnam to support operations in Coxs Bazar – home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar.

“We are very grateful to Vietnam for stepping up to assist people living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps,” said Richard Ragan, WFP Representative and Country Director, in a statement.

“This remains a serious humanitarian emergency, and continued support from the international community is vital if we are to keep providing the humanitarian assistance that is so badly needed.”

Vietnam’s new aid was announced by the Special Envoy of Prime Minister, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nguyen Quoc Dzung, during a visit to Bangladesh, according to WPF.

“Although this is a modest contribution, we are hopeful that our support will advance the response to this crisis situation,” he said.

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Rohingya women and children are seen at a temporary shelter in the Kalindi Kunj area of New Delhi, India, April 15, 2018. VOA

Vietnam joins dozens of other states who have pledged their support to the Cox’s Bazar response since the August 2017 refugee influx, said WFP, which provides food assistance to more than 870,000 refugees per month at the sprawling refugee settlement.

The UN agency also provides nutritional and livelihood support to the host community at Cox’s Bazaar, with the aim of helping the most vulnerable, WFP said.

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Sustained aid from nations is necessary to continue WFP operations in Bangladesh, the UN agency warned.

Over 750,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Cox’s Bazar since August 2017 to escape persecution and violence by Myanmar’s military in Northern Rakhine State. Thousands of other Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh during previous periods of repression in Myanmar. (IANS)