Sunday, October 02, 2016
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
The chairman of Parliament’s Committee on Equal Opportunity Mohammed Affey. PHOTO / FILE
The United Nations has appointed ex-member of parliament for Wajir South as first special envoy to address the situation of Somali refugees.
Mr Mohamed Abdi Affey, who was appointed on Friday, previously served as Kenya's ambassador to Somalia and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development's (Igad) envoy to Somalia.
He served as an MP for Wajir South (1997-2002) and a nominated MP of Orange Democratic Movement from 2008 to 2013.
The UN's creation of a special envoy post comes partly in response to what High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described on Friday as “growing pressures on host countries and related asylum fatigue”.
The refugee agency acknowledged recently that it “shares some of the concerns” raised by Human Rights Watch regarding reports of involuntary repatriation of Somalis from the Dadaab camps.
“Kenyan authorities are not giving Somali refugees a real choice between staying and leaving, and the UN refugee agency isn’t giving people accurate information about security conditions in Somalia,” Human Rights Watch charged last month.
“There is no way these returns can be considered voluntary.”
The Kenyan government denies that it is coercing refugees into leaving Dadaab, which is currently home to about 278,000 Somalis.
Kenya has said that it wants to close the Dadaab complex by the end of this year.
Some 30,000 refugees have returned to Somalia from Kenya since the start of a repatriation process in 2014 involving the two governments and the UN refugee agency.
A total of about one million Somalis are living as refugees in East African countries and Yemen as a result of civil warfare that began 25 years ago.
In announcing Mr Affey's appointment, the UN high commissioner pointed to “recent security and political gains in parts of Somalia”.
Mr Grandi added that “it is opportune to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees while also advocating for the preservation of asylum for those in continued need of international protection”.
The new special envoy, who will be based in Nairobi, will seek “solutions for Somali refugees and asylum seekers at national and regional level and strive to enhance dialogue between governments of asylum countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen), Somalia and the international community to help maintain asylum for Somali refugees,” Mr Grandi said.