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Some Somali refugees willing to go back home – UNHCR

By Chrispinus Omar (Xinhua)

13:53, January 31, 2013

NAIROBI, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said Wednesday a section of the Somali refugees living in Kenya have expressed willingness to return to Somalia as normalcy returns to southern part of the Horn of Africa nation.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it had been approached by 18 families living in Dadaaab's Ifo 2 refugee camp in northern Kenya, expressing their interest to turn to Somalia and confirming their readiness to surrender their ration cards.

"This latter element is an important indicator of intent as it implies a willingness to voluntarily repatriate, as opposed to temporarily return," UNHCR said in its Situation Report released in Nairobi.

Relief agencies working in Daadab attribute the movement to refugees crossing the border back to Somalia as that of refugees returning in search of work in Somalia as well as to check up on their farms and the assess the situation on the ground, especially as Al-Shaabab has ceded many towns and areas following the offensive by the AMISOM forces.

Some 77,000 Somalis have so far sought refuge in neighboring countries in 2012 while some 430 people were internally displaced while in November alone, another 5,400 were internally displaced, mainly in South Central Somalia, in particular from the coastal city of Kismayo.

The Horn of Africa nation is the most affected country within the Horn of Africa by the ongoing drought, widely regarded as the worst in 60 years.

Early this month, UNHCR also reported spontaneous returns of displaced people in the newly accessible areas of south-central Somalia, including some 2,000 people who returned to Kismayo in November and December 2012.

The UN refugee agency said together with two other organizations' monitoring mission to the Liboi border point on Jan. 25 concluded that refugees both from Dadaab and from Nairobi were continuing to cross the border into Somalia.

"On average, two buses per day were arriving carrying refugees, one from Nairobi and one from Dadaab," the UN agency said.

According to statistics collected by Refugee Consortium Kenya, 510 refugees crossed the border in the period Jan. 18 - 24, 378 arriving from Nairobi and 132 from Dadaab.

"The majority of the urban refugees were not registered with UNHCR. The Nairobi arrivals cited police harassment as the main cause for their decision to return," UNHCR said.

In the same period, UNHCR said there was a move in the other direction, with 104 new refugees crossing into Kenya, claiming they were fleeing recruitment by Al-Shabaab in Middle Juba.

The Kenyan government in mid December 2012 stopped registration of refugees and asylum seekers mainly from Somalia in urban areas with immediate effect due to insecurity incidents across the country.

Acting Commissioner for Refugee Affairs Badu Saro Katelo also ordered officials to close down all registration centers in the urban areas, saying such exercise will be undertaken at the refugee camps in northern Kenya.

Katelo said all asylum seekers/refugees will be registered and hosted at the refugee camps and ordered all asylum seekers and refugees from Somalia to report to Dadaab refugee camps in northeast Kenya while asylum seekers from other countries should report to Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya. However, on Jan. 23, High Court Judge David Majanja ordered the government to stop implementing its Dec. 18, 2012 order until the petition filed by the civil society is heard and determined.

Since the plan was announced, human rights organizations say the police in Nairobi have arbitrarily arrested hundreds of Somali nationals, most of whom have been released after paying hefty bribes.

Reports from airline companies and aid workers on the Kenya- Somali border near the Dadaab camps say that since December 2012 over 1,000 Somalis have returned to their country every week, either by air or over land.

Some told aid workers in Somalia they left because they feared a crackdown against Somali refugees in Kenya.

The East African nation is also hosting nearly half a million refugees from Somalia and has delayed their repatriation until the security situation in the country improves further.

UNHCR said the population of Kambioos (new camp) is slowly increasing, with a few families arriving from other camps every week.

"The 68 individuals arrived to Kambioos from Ifo 2, most of them citing insecurity in that camp as the reason for their relocation. Some Ifo 2 residents also moved to Dagahaley," the refugee agency said.

However, violence and crime decreased markedly in Ifo 2 during the reporting period as police stepped up their presence in the camp, it said

Latest reports by UN indicate that there has been a gradual increase in the number of international aid workers operating in southern Somalia, following the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab from key towns.

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