GARISSA (Xinhua) --
Kenya said the planned repatriation of Somali
refugees from Dadaab refugee camp and subsequent closure of the
sprawling Dadaab camps by November is on course.
Regional government official Mohamud Saleh said that the
verification exercise of the refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp
is going as planned and will be concluded within the time frame.
Saleh dismissed claims that the government had pushed the
closure month forward because of logistical problems.
"If there was any intention to push the date forward then it
will be communicated by the cabinet secretary for internal
security. As of now the exercise is on course and we expect it
to be concluded in November as earlier announced," he told
journalists in Garissa on Friday.
The government official acknowledged that the absorption rate
by UNHCR Somalia is slow because it lacked capacity to receive
and accommodate the refugees going back.
"Because of the big number of refugees who have been cleared
to return, UNHCR Somalia has not put enough infrastructures to
place the refugees before they eventually resettle in their home
country," he said.
Kenya in May announced it will close the world’s largest
refugee camp, Dadaab and plans to repatriate the more than
300,000 Somali refugees.
The East African nation has cited the influence of terror
group Al-Shabaab as among the risks of keeping the camps open.
It was not yet clear when the refugee camp closures will
begin, but the Kenyan government has already disbanded the
Department of Refugee Affairs, which worked with humanitarian
organisations for the welfare of the refugees.
UNHCR has developed a plan of action which outlines a process
intended to reduce the population of Dadaab, currently 343,043
(326,611 Somalis), by 150,000 by the end of 2016.
Saleh said the number of refugees willing to return home is
overwhelming and the government is in collaboration with UNHCR
to ensure that the process goes on smoothly without hitches.
"Contrary to some media reports that majority of the refugees
were not willing to return home, the number of those who are
queuing to go back home is growing by the day," he said.
His remarks came after the UNHCR said about 70,000 Somalia
refugees are willing to return back to their home country by the
end of the year.
UNHCR Kenya Assistant Representative in Charge of Protection
Catherine Hamon Sharpe said that this figure represents
approximately 25 percent of Somalia refugees in Kenya.
The regional coordinator reiterated that all concerns arising
from the exercise are being addressed noting the entire process
was being carried out in a humane manner.