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Kenya's Somali refugees face repatriation

June 13, 2016

The Kenyan government has ordered the world's largest refugee complex closed by November. The UN refugee agency has called for more time to avert "transferring the problem" to war-torn Somalia.

Somali refugees in Kenya
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Blackwell

UN refugee agency chief Filippo Grandi on Monday said voluntary repatriation is the best solution for hundreds of thousand of Somali refugees in Kenya after Nairobi ordered the closure of the world's largest refugee complex.

"(Kenyan) President Kenyatta is quite determined to get through this in a relatively short period of time. I told the president that in order to mobilize these resources, we need a bit more (time)," Grandi said at a press briefing in Nairobi, referring to a November deadline for the complex's closure.

Nearly 350,000 refugees, mostly from neighboring Somalia, reside at the Dadaab refugee camp. But only 14,000 Somalis have opted to voluntarily return to their country since December 2014.

Grandi called for international donors to fund infrastructure projects and create job in war-torn Somalia. Nearly one million people are internally displaced in the East African nation, mostly around the capital Mogadishu.

"We don't want to help people go back and then they become internally displaced; otherwise, it's just transferring the problem from one place to another where, by the way, it is more difficult to help them," the UN refugee agency chief noted.

Later in June, Grandi is expected to meet with the Kenyan and Somali government to discuss options
Later in June, Grandi is expected to meet with the Kenyan and Somali government to discuss optionsImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Senosi

"To create infrastructure in Somalia will take years, but we have worked in many situations in the world where you can do some quick fixes so that some initial activities can tart, and that will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of returnees," Grandi added.

Kenyan authorities fear militants have infiltrated the refugee complex following multiple attacks across the country claimed by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali militant group al-Shabab based in Somalia.

Nairobi reversed an earlier decision to close the Kakuma camp hosting nearly 200,000 refugees, many from South Sudan, the UN refugee agency chief added.

ls/bw (AP, Reuters)