During the early 1990s, Kenya formed a repatriation program, the Dadaab refugee camp, for thousands of displaced Somalians escaping rebel attacks, drought, continuous violence and abuse.
- Islamic extremists displaced thousands of Kenyans housed in the Dadaab refugee camp. Now the country is requesting that more than 260,000 refugees in Kenya return to Somalia for concern of Somalia-based al-Shabab Islamic extremists launching attacks within the Kenyan camp. After numerous deadly attacks from 2011-2015, the government announced in May the closure of Dadaab for immediate national security interests.
- World leaders don’t agree with deporting refugees back to Somalia. Kenyan officials are tentatively closing Dadaab at the end of 2016. However, the Human Rights Watch says sending refugees back to Somalia doesn’t meet international standards of a voluntary return.
- They have Somalian blood, but are Kenyan-bred. On average, refugees are in exile for about 20 years, according to the U.N. refugee agency. In Northeastern Kenya, nestled in close proximity to Somalia’s border, the Dabaab camp has been home to residents for a quarter of a century. Some have never stepped foot on Somalian soil.
- Refugees are being lured with a cash advance to return. Many Somalian refugees were told they would be deprived of a $400 U.N. cash grant because of forced extradition, according to the Human Rights Watch. Dadaab refugees have been given inadequate information about potential dangers during their forced exit.
- Resources in Somalia don’t exist for the influx of Kenyan refugees to return. Some Somalian refugees who returned to their home country have fled back to Kenya again due to continuous violence and nonexistent resources and services. The deported refugees seeking asylum were unable to reestablish themselves in Somalia, and now they are denied access to refugee registration, or asylum procedures in Dadaab. This leaves a large percentage of displaced peoples without legal status or access to food.
- Force and coercion used on refugees are not tolerated by world leaders. While the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta claims the process of repatriation will be voluntary and humane, countries internationally say they will reprimand evictions using force. However, many refugees inhabiting Kenya agree to the return for fear of coercion and force if they stay in Kenya, but they will face danger, persecution and hunger in Somalia.
- Refugees are involuntarily returning to insecure conditions and poverty. “The Kenyan authorities are not giving Somali refugees a real choice between staying and leaving, and the UN refugee agency isn’t giving people accurate information about security conditions in Somalia,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. “There is no way these returns can be considered voluntary.”
- Kenyan refugees have no choice but to leave. Dadaab’s refugees reported feeling trapped by the government’s decision to shut down the camp. Many are afraid of returning to Somalia, but simultaneously fear the handcuffs and deportation of staying in Dadaab until the end of the year.
- The Dadaab refugee camp is a city full of resources and services. The refugee camp is the largest safe haven worldwide, and was initially created to host roughly 90,000 refugees searching for relief from rebels fighting the Somalian government in 1991. Now it spans five camps with makeshift cinemas, soccer leagues, bustling businesses, schools, hospitals and a graveyard.
- Refugees are forced into danger and left without community support. In mid-August, roughly 24,000 Somalian refugees had left Dadaab and gone back to their country of origin since the beginning of the repatriation process in December 2014. Kenya’s government reported to Human Rights Watch that in mid-August they were aiding the return of 1,000 refugees per day. Negotiations of repatriations are ongoing because refugees aren’t being sufficiently assisted upon their return to Somalia.
– Rachel Williams