Repatriation of Somalis from Kenya must be voluntary: UNHCR

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Tents stretch away into the distance in a part of the sprawling Dadaab refugee complex in north-east Kenya.(© UNHCR/J.Brouwer)

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says all returns of Somali refugees from Kenya to Somalia should be strictly voluntary as stipulated in an agreement it has signed with the Governments of Kenya and Somalia.

UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards on Tuesday explained that the 10 November Tripartite Agreement set out the legal framework for returns to Somalia.

He said the accord specifies that all returns should be voluntary and take place in safety and dignity.

There is no deadline in the agreement for the returns, Adrian Edwards added.

"UNHCR does not support forced returns. The understanding was reaffirmed last Friday when the Kenyan and Somali refugee commissioners visited Dadaab refugee camp-complex in north-eastern Kenya to discuss the repatriation process now starting. UNHCR works and speaks with the refugees daily, but the visit provided the refugees with the opportunity to ask high-level Somali officials about the areas to which they are considering returning – with some lively informal discussions in addition to town hall meetings."

The voluntary repatriation programme will initially concentrate on supporting, on a pilot-project basis, refugees who are spontaneously returning to Somalia, Edwards said.

According to UNHCR, three areas in Somalia will be targeted for this purpose and so far, Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo are under discussion with the refugees.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1’33″

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