High Commissioner Guterres wraps up visit to Kenya and Somalia to discuss the future of the Dadaab refugee camps
UNHCR, 09 May 2015
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres last night completed a visit to Kenya and Somalia where he met with the Presidents of the two countries, as well as Somali refugees and returnees.
Speaking in Nairobi Mr. Guterres said, "We reached a common understanding with the Presidents of Kenya and Somalia on three things: firstly the need to ensure return from Dadaab is voluntary and that it takes place in safety and dignity, and in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement; secondly, on cooperation to boost security in Dadaab; and thirdly, the expansion of additional areas for people to return to in Somalia.
The High Commissioner expressed deep appreciation to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his "courage and wisdom" regarding the necessity to make return to Somalia attractive and sustainable even as emotions in the country are high in the wake of the reprehensible attack on Garissa University last month. He pledged to mobilize the international community to boost security in Dadaab, which has a population of nearly 350,000.
In Somalia, Mr. Guterres met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Sharmarke in Mogadishu to discuss the possibilities of future return for Somali refugees currently in Kenya. In Kismayo, a key refugee return destination in South Central Somalia, he met regional leader Ahmed Madobe on the way forward to scale up the current voluntary return project and ensure that returns are sustainable.
Mr. Guterres emphasized the need create conditions for a growing number of people to return to Somalia by scaling up investment to improve socio-economic conditions for the benefit of returning refugees and internally displaced Somalis, as well as local communities. Expressing his full commitment to the goals of Somalia and of the region he pledged to mobilize the international community to improve access to shelter, education, health and other basic services as create realistic livelihood opportunities. "These are some of the instruments needed to stabilize Somalia, which already has a clear political and security plan," he added.
In Dadaab, the High Commissioner met with local officials, refugees and host communities. He condemned the Garissa attack noting that the entire region has suffered the effects of terrorism. Reiterating his commitment to strengthen security in Dadaab he said, "It is in the interests of the international community to support the Government of Kenya to protect its citizens and the refugees it has so generously received."
Noting that to date some 2,000 refugees returned with UNHCR support to Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo since the Tripartite Agreement, the High Commissioner said that when basic conditions are conducive those numbers will grow exponentially. "I've seen babies who have been born from parents who have been born in Dadaab. This is not how we want people to live."
The High Commissioner informed the refugees in Dadaab that he had received the reassurances of the Kenyan Government that return to Somalia would be fully voluntary and in line with the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement. "UNHCR and the Governments of Kenya and Somalia will organize an International Conference of Solidarity, to raise the required funding to multiply areas inside Somalia where capacity to receive returnees will be boosted through a portfolio of projects," he said.
UNHCR has registered nearly 1 million Somali refugees in the region. More than 420,000 are hosted in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps in Kenya.