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UNHCR says 70,000 Somalia refugees are willing to return home

NAIROBI Somalia (Xinhua) -- Approximately 70,000 Somalia refugees based at Kenya’s Dabaab refugee camp are willing to return to their home country by the end of the year, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Kenya Assistant Representative in Charge of Protection Catherine Hamon Sharpe said that this figure represents approximately 25 percent of Somalia refugees in Kenya.

"We therefore think that the deadline given by the Kenya government to close the Dabaab camp in Nov. is not realistic if the refugees are to be repatriated voluntarily in a dignified and humane manner," Sharpe said during a panel discussion on refugee issues in Nairobi.

Sharpe said that they have urged the Kenyan government to reconsider its decision to close the Dabaab camp.

"We are therefore engaging the Kenyan authorities so that they extend the voluntary repatriation agreement that expires in November," she added.

The UN official said that currently 2,000 Somali refugees at the Dabaab transition camp have signed for voluntary repatriations.

"However, they can’t leave the camp because the Jubaland (in southern Somalia) officials have refused to receive them," she said.

In 2013, the UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Kenya-based Somali refugees back to Somalia.

In 2011 during the Horn of Africa drought, Kenya hosted over 500,000 Somalia refugees, however by December 2014, the figure had reduced by 100,000.

Sharpe said that since 2014, UNHCR has assisted in the voluntary repatriation of 28,000 back to Somalia.


Somalia plans to coordinate stabilization activities

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The Somali government and its partners have agreed to harmonize all stabilization programs or activities in areas recently liberated from Al-Shabaab militants in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said on Thursday.

The program reached during a two-day conference held in Mogadishu was aimed at coordinating stabilization efforts between the government, regional administrations and other key stakeholders.

Head of Stabilization and Early Recovery Working Group of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Dr. Opiyo Ododa said in a statement issued in Mogadishu that the conference had been critical in ensuring the adoption of the framework by all stakeholders.

"AMISOM is a key player in issues of stabilization. You realize that stabilization cannot happen without security and our major role is to provide security and the space in which stabilization activities can happen," Ododa said.

"Most of the identified districts in which stabilization occurs are districts which AMISOM has recovered from Al Shabaab. It is in these districts that the stabilization programs under the Wadajir framework are going to be implemented," he said.

The meeting was convened under the Wajadir Framework, which was launched in March and seeks to support reconciliation, civic dialogue and the establishment of local governance structures.

Ododa also noted that future stabilization activities would now be coordinated through the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs.

He said the meeting had enabled the mapping of stabilization activities and facilitated networking and partnerships, expected to improve efficiency.

"As AMISOM, the conference has shown us how we can coordinate all our efforts, especially those dealing with issues of stabilization," Ododa said.


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