The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi on Friday visited the Dadaab refugee camp ahead of its planned closure by the Kenyan government.
In spite of cautions from the United Nations and western governments that the country could violate its international obligations through the action, Kenya has resolved to go ahead with the closure of the camp which is home to some 350,000 Somali refugees arguing that the camp poses an “existential threat” to the country’s security.
Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto recently told journalists on the sidelines of the first humanitarian summit held in Istanbul, Turkey that they believe there was “radicalization by extremist elements in the refugee camps especially of the young people, idle young people in the refugee camps”.
An offer for voluntary repatriation by the UNHCR in collaboration with the Kenyan and Somali governments in 2013 was not well patronized by the refugees.
They say much as they would like to go home, the prevailing conditions are not favourable.
“We are ready to go back to our country” said Habiba Abdulahi, “but it’s not the timing, today or tomorrow, because the challenges and the reasons why we fled from Somalia, still some of the challenges are still there.”
UNHCR boss, Filippo Grandi however says international principles must be followed in the repatriation of the refugees.
“The best solution for Somali refugees, just for like any refugees, is to eventually go back in safety and dignity to their own country Somalia, on a voluntary basis according to international principles” Grandi said.
“We cannot treat this problem of Somali refugees with business as usual. We have to turn the page and what is most important is investing” Grandi said adding that; “investing in Somalia as I said is very, very important, and it’s is not just an economic and material investment, it is investing in the security of that country and in its political stability.”
Kenya which says it has spent some $7 billion on the Dadaab camp over the past 25 years accuses the international community of having failed Somalia, which is still struggling to recover from the anarchy of the 1990s.