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United Nations agency hold talks on refugee repatriation
Sunday, September 16, 2012

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government and the United Nations will hold talks next week on the possible voluntary repatriation of Somalia refugees who are residing in Kenya, a United Nation official said on Saturday.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Somalia Representative Bruno Geddo told Xinhua in Nairobi that Somali’s make up 465,000 of the roughly 550,000 total refugees in the Kenya.

"The UN and Kenya government have scheduled a meeting next week whose agenda is to reach a common understanding and develop a plan for the possible repatriation of Somalia refugees following the formation of a new government in Somalia," Geddo said on the sidelines of the fourth Story Moja Hay Festival.

The four day festival will feature writers and readers from across the world with the aim of sharing stories and ideas.

Geddo noted that the earliest the repatriation process can begin is next year.

"The actual date will depend on the peace conditions in Somalia because there is currently violence in the country," the UNCHR official said.

"The reality is that currently, UN staff are working under a tight security protocol due to the risk of attack by terrorists," he said.

According to the UN, the easiest group to resettle back into Somalia are the ones who came to Kenya this year as they have not established deep roots.

He noted that there are some third generation Somalia refugees who only know life in refugee camps.

"Some of them cannot leave the camp and can only secure work as translators or get employment in international Nongovernmental Organizations working in the camps," he said.

Geddo added that the UN is also planning to relocate its office to Somalia from Kenya.

"It will be the starting point for up scaling assistance to Somalia, as you have to be on the ground in order to understand local conditions," he said.

The UN official said that estimates indicate that over 100 million U.S. dollars worth of goods and services is transacted by Somali’s at Nairobi’s Eastleigh town monthly.

Geddo noted that the Dadaab refugee camp which hosts a majority of Somalia refugees and is located over 500 km north east of Nairobi has an annual turnover is 25 million dollars and out of which 14 million dollars is contributed to the local economy.

He said that UN has been active in Somalia for the past 20 years and have played an active role in sheltering internally displaced persons in Somalia.

Geddo said that the UN will learn from the lessons and help improve its role inside Somalia.

"We will not have a policy for blanket provision of aid but it will be more targeted in order to avoid waste and abuse," he said.

"It will be aimed at those in greatest need but will also help the whole nation build resilience in order to avoid a recurrence of famine," he said.

Director of the African Resource and Capacity Initiative Ahmed Jama said that there is emerging conflict between the returning Somali Diaspora community and the locals.

"We hope these differences will not degenerate and increase tension as those from the Diaspora are seen to be favored," he said.

Jama, who is a former resident of Mogadishu, said that new government will also have a difficult task of rebuilding the city.

The director added that the estimate for remittances from Diaspora is between one to two billion dollars annually.

"It is the remittances that maintain the livelihood of a majority of the residents in Somalia," Jama said.

Jama said that in the past few years, Somalia has faced the menace of militant Islamists who took over power from the clan based warlords.

He said that blast that occurred in Mogadishu a day after the new Somalia president was sworn in shows that Islamists forces are still present in the country.

"The politics of revenge is still present in Somalia," he said.


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