Written by Abdimahad.
After a spate of Nairobi grenade attacks linked to the Islamist militants, Kenya ordered all Somali refugees in its urban areas to move to designated camps, which the government claims as crucial for their security, but international organizations argue any compulsory repatriation could breach the international rights of refugees, and the influx of new refugees will, however, exacerbate already dire conditions in congested camps .
United Nations, MSF, and Amnesty International called for Kenya to reverse its decision. Unfortunately, Somali people expected its government to harangue the move, clarify its position and make an unambiguous statement asking Kibaki to grind its unilateral operation to a halt until the country stands back on its feet.
Ironically, a delegation led by president Hassan flew to Nairobi on Friday December 21st to discuss ways of boosting bilateral ties with Kenya, a move that annoyed a lot.
Sadio Burale, an undocumented refugee mother of 8 living in Eastleigh says, “Everyone of us thought the Somali delegation could talk tough, visit refugee camps and assess the existing problems with their own eyes.”
Ali, Abdi, who is currently studying Political Science at the University of Washington, says, “ When Mr. Hassan insists on boosting ties with Kenya, he’s sending them a clear signal it’s okay for them to keep abusing, torturing, and arresting his citizens. He’s a callous indifference to people’s suffering.”
Mr. Ali gave me an example about French commando raided in Bulomarer, Somalia on Friday, January 11th to rescue one of their nationals, the kidnapped military advisor Denis Allex from the stronghold of militant Islamist group Al-Shabab. “France president ordered his army to risk their lives in one of the most risky missions to salvage one man. Almost 1 million Somalis are suffering in refugee camps, no one has ever talked about their plight, no one.
The Somali president, Hassan Sheikh told reports that “there is no dignity in living in refugee camps.” Many people expressed dismay over that statement. Sadio Burale says, “The president was supposed to tell Kibaki Somali refugees were to be treated with dignity, not to be criminalized. One thing he might have failed to understand was no individual chose to live in a squalid cramped quarter.”
She went on to say, “If he witnessed what was like living in those over-crowded camps of Dadaab, Hagader, Ifo, and Dagahaley, he wouldn’t have thrown empty rhetorics and baloney.”
Serious concerns have been expressed about the current public discourse in Kenya, which emphasizes links between the refugee population and Al Shabaab, and piracy. Somali government could have developed a concerted public relations strategy aimed to counter some of the crude negative images.
Haji Olow, a Somali elder living in the US says “No individual left Somalia for a sightseeing trip to Dadaab or to any other refugee camp. We all know why people left their home country, so do Hassan Sheikh. The main cause of refugee migrations to neighboring countries were directly attributable to the long standing chaos associated with the lack of authority. ”
“Until underlying circumstances that forced people to flee are removed, refugees will continue to suffer.” Olow concluded.
Even though the internecine conflict in Somalia has led to large-scale refugee migrations, some refugees are cogitating to return their home country. UNHCR External Relations Officer Nyberg told VOA’s Somali Service, “UNHCR doesn’t have any office in Somalia to facilitate the return of refugees to Somalia.
” Nyberg says UNHCR has not been facilitating the return of refugees to Somalia. Somali administration as well doesn’t have the resource and military power of their own to bring people back home safely.
With that being said, finding an expedient solution to refugees is not something as easy as Mr. Hassan Sheikh thinks it is. His government is obliged to make plans for repatriation exercises if they are enthusiastic to welcome repatriates back home. The Somali administration should have to:
- Promote legislation and teach local law enforcement and others how to respond to the influx of displaced refugees now living in Mogadishu
- Enact legislation giving both voluntary and involuntary repatriates right to safe, and decent housing until they adopt the living conditions in the country.
- Visit all refugee camps in the neighboring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda
- Collect accurate statistics about Somali refugees.
- Engage a discussion with the United Nations to assist Somali refugees who are willing to voluntarily return like they assisted to return from countries of Côte D’Ivoire, and Liberia. UNHCR paid each adult above 18 years US$375 to defray reintegration and transportation expenses to their final destination. Each refugee below 18 years received US$ 275, the release disclosed. Somali voluntary repatriates have the right to claim that assistance from UNHCR.
- Carry out extensive enumerations of their own. I have a gut feeling Somali refugees data can be prone to inaccuracies, because UN staff and host country often exaggerate the number of refugees in order to attract extra aid for refugees.
- Appoint Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission
- Set up an Internal Displacement Monitoring Center that carries out training activities to enhance the capacity of local actors and stakeholders to respond to the needs of internally displaced people.
- Maintain security and provide refugees with the support they need.
- Name a team of doctors to address the constellation of displacement-related stressors that affect refugees.
- Appoint an ad hoc committee to oversee and monitor how services and assistance to displaced and repatriated refugees are rendered or
- Encourage developed nations to open up regular migration routes for mandated refugees beyond resettlement programs as soon as possible.
- Improve transparency and enhance accountability through mechanisms that ensure quality service delivery, effective support functions, and beneficiary feedback
Should all above mentioned steps being taken, refugees could go back home, but the most critical question remains unanswered is whether the cash-strapped administration can cope with those hurdles that lay ahead. Albeit, the uncertain security situation exists in Somalia, hundreds of refugees returned home of their own free will, without external pressure. With more are still unwilling to risk returning home at the moment.
Mohamoud Abdi, a former journalist, was geared up to get his family back to Kismayu, “Poor living conditions at camps forced a lot to return into areas still under conflict.”
Mohamed told me he witnessed the prevalence of mental health problems in those camps , and yet very few have access to clinic-based mental health care. “Psychological wounds of war, two decades of suffering, and forced migration have created panic among refugees. Cholera is prevalent, and maternal mortality is higher in women living in Dadab than anywhere else in the world.”
One of the most serious factors affecting development in Somalia is the greed of the leaders and lack of sympathy for their nationals. Without a shadow of doubt, any leadership is born, it will be nothing, but a hot private business, every leader is scrambling to leech on grants and donations, funds and other resources donated to refugees by the International Communities and UN.
Right now, this leadership is not the paradigm of good commitment to assisting its citizens. Assisting internally displaced refugees in the city is a litmus test for Hassan. Unless this status quo is changed for better, then people would never place more trust and faith in his administration.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a member of parliament with whom I talked on the phone told me, “Instead of commiserating with agony our people are going through , NGO oriented president and his prime minister are mulling over some lucrative projects to cash in on repatriation, because of unscrupulous, greedy and corrupt individuals within the government who want everything for themselves.”
In a nutshell, if the rule of law comes in place, every Somali in West, let alone to those who have been languishing in the squalid overcrowded refugee camps for more than twenty years, would return home willingly.