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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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Rohingya Shot in Rakhine Camp By Myanmar Police Raises United Nation’s Concern

A special U.N. fact-finding mission said the military acted "with genocidal intent" against the Rohingyas.

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Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Reports of shootings, allegedly by Myanmar police, at a camp for Rohingya refugees in Rakhine state have sparked concern by United Nations officials.

Knut Ostby, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, tweeted that he is “deeply concerned about the reports of shooting in Ah Nauk Ye camp in central #Rakhine, #Myanmar which holds IDPs who fled violence in 2012. I call for calm, non-violence and restraint. ”

The Reuters news agency quotes eyewitnesses as saying Myanmar police shot and injured four Rohingyas Sunday, while detaining two men accused of smuggling people out of a camp for displaced people in western Rakhine state.

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A new toilet recently installed in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

The report said about 20 police descended on Ah Nauk Ye camp, 15 kilometers east of the state’s capital Sittwe, and apprehended the two men who were accused of owning the “rickety vessel,” used in an attempt to smuggle 160 people, including 25 children, out of the camp. The watercraft was stopped south of Yangoon.

An eyewitness told Reuters that when the police came into the camp “people from the camp went out to look and police shot at people.”

The police, however, told the news agency that Rohingyas surrounded them with swords and threw stones at them. “I heard that Bengali from the camp tried to grab the arrested people back from the police and police had to fire warning shots,” police inspector Than Htay from a nearby police station, said.

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Workers build a Rohingya repatriation center in Gunndum near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

People from Myanmar call the Rohingya Muslims “Bengali,” implying they are from Bangladesh and not from Myanmar.

None of the first Rohingya Muslims on a list to return to Myanmar showed up at their departure points in Bangladesh Thursday, the first day they were scheduled to be sent back under a repatriation agreement between the two nations.

About 150 Rohingya refugees were slated to be transported from the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar back to northern Rakhine state, the region where they and more than 700,000 others escaped in August 2017 from a scorched earth campaign by Myanmar’s military in response to a series of attacks committed by Rohingya militants. Some of the refugees on the list are believed to have gone into hiding to avoid being sent back.

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A Rohingya refugee woman draws water from a hand pump at a temporary shelter in New Delhi, India.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 angry Rohingyas, including children, demonstrated against the repatriation effort at one of the camps.

Bangladesh Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told reporters that the refugees cannot be forced to return to Myanmar under the terms of the agreement.

Human rights groups are calling on Myanmar and Bangladesh to end their plans to send Rohingya Muslims back to Rakhine State, where the United Nations says they are subject to extrajudicial killings and other atrocities carried out by Myanmar’s military.

Amnesty International called the organized return of the Rohingya a “reckless move, which puts lives at risk.”

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A deforested section of the Chakmakul camp for Rohingya refugees clings to a hillside in southern Bangladesh, Feb. 13, 2018. VOA

“These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar military’s grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s East and Southeast Asia director.

Also Read: Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due to Forceful Repatriation

Bill Frelick, the refugee rights director for Human Rights Watch, said Dhaka “will be stunned to see how quickly international opinion turns against it if it starts sending unwilling Rohingya refugees back into harm’s way in Myanmar.”

A special U.N. fact-finding mission said the military acted “with genocidal intent” against the Rohingyas, citing numerous atrocities such as extrajudicial killings, gang rapes and the torching of entire villages. (VOA)