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Kenya, Somalia sign pact for refugees return

Thursday, June 6, 2013

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 6 – Kenya and Somalia have signed an agreement for the voluntary repatriation of about half a million Somali refugees living in Kenya.

The First Secretary at the Embassy of Somalia in Nairobi, Ali Mohammed Sheikh, said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would facilitate the homecoming of thousands who had fled war and hunger in their country.

He however asked for international solidarity saying it was an enormous task. “This is a procedure and you know before taking people back to their place there are other humanitarian factors to consider,” he expressed. “The enormous task requires international solidarity and burden sharing.”

Sheikh revealed that the latest count at the Dadaab refugee camp – the world’s largest – showed a reduction of 80,000 refugees who had gone back to Somalia.

The repatriation process has been initiated after Kenya and Somalia signed a Joint Commission Agreement which provides a bilateral opportunity for facilitation of return of the refugees.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Sagana State Lodge where he hosted Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for a two-day retreat, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the two countries have also agreed to enhance the exchange of information in dealing with the Al-Shabaab elements and their sympathisers.

“We have called for the support of IGAD, UNHCR and the international community to ensure the success of this exercise,” he said.

The Head of State disclosed that during the meeting with the Somalia leader, they discussed the threats, violent attacks and kidnappings carried out by Al-Shabaab targeting innocent people in the two countries and agreed on joint security operations.

On the issue of refugees, Kenyatta briefed President Mohamud on the position of the Kenya Government regarding the disproportionate burden resulting from hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees and its direct bearing on the economic, social, security and environmental consequences.

The two leaders resolved to establish a joint task-force to prepare for a conference on refugees, scheduled for August this year, in Nairobi.

President Kenyatta said that the conference will work out the modalities for the early repatriation and resettlement of refugees to their country.

“We call upon the international community to support regional efforts to create conditions that are conducive including means of livelihood that will ensure safe and orderly return to their homeland,” President Kenyatta said.

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