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MSF opposes repatriation of Somali refugees

Monday, October 01, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1- An international non-governmental organisation is raising a storm over plans by the Kenyan government to repatriate Somali refugees, saying the security conditions on the ground are not yet conducive for their well being.

At a press briefing on Monday, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) argued that Somalia, which last month voted a new President to take over from the UN backed transitional government, was still witnessing a military offensive that would hamper delivery of aid to refugees returning home.

MSF Head of Mission in Kenya, Elena Velilla argued that the planned repatriation was premature and its results would be disastrous.

“With the capture of Kismayu, the Kenyan government is pressing hard for the repatriation of refugees to Somalia. We want to go on record and say that we think it is too early for this. It will lead to returnees being placed in IDP camps with substandard conditions,” said Velilla.

The NGO further expressed concern over the ban on registration of new arrivals to the Dadaab camps saying it violates international refugee conventions that Kenya is party to.

Velilla added that the ban made it impossible to assist the refugees while at the same time exposing them to human rights abuses.

“It is an open violation of the 1951 UN refugee convention, 1969 OAU refugee convention, Geneva Convention and other international treaties Kenya is a signatory to. The lack of registration makes it almost impossible to assist and protect the new comers,” she explained.

She also observed that there had been a reduction in services offered in the camps that had already led to an outbreak of Hepatitis E and Cholera.

Velilla noted that the forthcoming rainy season would make things worse and hinder the provision of shelter and sanitation.

“Our main concern is shelter and sanitation; we are less concerned about health services and food, even if in terms of health, the MSF hospital in Dagahaley is becoming the referral structure for both Ifo extensions, beyond our original mandate,” she said.

MSF further cited security concerns in the Dadaab camps, saying it was impossible to deploy staff to the health centers.

“Even if the situation has improved in the last two months after the deployment of 320 GSU officers, there is still violence among refugees and it will be very difficult to have a quality intervention when the next emergency hits,” she explained.

The NGO also expressed concern at the funding cut for the United Nations refugee agency.
“We are concerned about the cutting in the funding for the camps, UNHCR has a 50 percent cut in comparison to last year and the prospects for 2013 are even worse,” she said.

Somalia is still reeling from the effects of political and economic instability over the past decades and still has to pick up its pieces.


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