First Somali refugees in Kenya decide to return home as part of a new pilot project

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Kasmaal 10/12/2014

With the first Somali refugees crossing the border from Kenya to return home, new and significant steps are taken towards pioneering durable solutions to what for many has been years and even decades of displacement. This is a significant step to address the needs for lasting solutions to one of the world’s most protracted refugee situations. The initiative is being carried out in the context of the Tripartite Agreement signed in November 2013 by the Governments of Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR. The agreement governs the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya and ensures that this takes place in conditions of safety and dignity.

The first returns today mark the beginning of a six months pilot project during which returning refugees will be provided support by UNHCR to safely return and reestablish their livelihoods in the areas they originated from. Three areas are identified for returns, namely Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo in South Central Somalia. The pilot project will only include Somali refugees in Kenya, from these areas, who freely and voluntarily decide to return home after undergoing counseling by UNHCR and its partners on the prevailing conditions in Somalia, especially with regard to security.

The return support package to returning refugees comprises assistance to secure safe transport, an unconditional cash grant, essential travel and hygiene kits for use during the journey home, tools, food and other basic needs assistance to support the sustainability of return and reintegration in Somalia. In the areas piloted for returns, new joint development activities are being implemented to improve livelihoods and access to basic services.

‘This initiative aims at supporting the spontaneous return movement we have observed since 2012 and at better targeting the assistance needed by those opting to return to their places of origin to rebuild their lives,’ says Raouf Mazou, Representative of UNHCR Kenya.

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The pilot project targets an initial group of up to 10,000 Somali refugees in Kenya who wish to return to Somalia, starting with the immediate support to around 400 persons in December.

‘Somalia is far from being conducive to large scale returns and those deciding to return and resume lives in their home country need to be aware of the fragile situation and conditions there. UNHCR has positioned itself in the three areas of potential return to monitor and support the Somalis who would decide to return. However, the decision to do so remains solely their own. This is in line with the Tripartite Agreement committing all parties to ensure that returns are voluntary,’ says Alessandra Morelli, Representative of UNHCR Somalia.

Kasmaal information center/London/UK