A Somali family waits to board a bus that will take them back to Somalia from the Dadaab refugee camp on January 21 in a voluntary repatriation programme /REUTERS
The repatriation of Somalia refugees and closure of the Dadaab camps in Garissa county by November is on course, Northeastern regional coordinator Mohamud Saleh has said.
Registered Somalis at Dadaab was 263,036 as at August 31.
The number of refugees willing to return home is overwhelming, contrary to media reports that they are not willing to go home, Saleh said.
“The number of those who are queuing to go back home is growing by the day,” he added.
Speaking to the press in his office on Thursday, Saleh said the verification of the refugees in Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera camps will be concluded within the time frame.
He dismissed claims the government had pushed the closure a month forward because of logistical problems.
“If there was any intention to push the date forward, then it would have been communicated by the Interior CS,” Saleh said.
The regional coordinator said the absorption rate by UNHCR Somalia is slow because it does not have capacity to accommodate all the refugees.
“UNHCR Somalia has not put up enough infrastructure to place the refugees in before they eventually resettle in their home country,” Saleh said.
The government and UNHCR are working to ensure the process goes on smoothly, he said.
Refugees will be sent back as whole families and the state and UNHCR are working to identify close relatives, using fingerprints if necessary, Saleh said. “No member of a family will be left behind. The moment we are through an entire family is allowed to go back,” he said.
On students who have registered for either KCPE or KCSE exams, the former ambassador Saleh said each case will be addressed on merit and where applicable, a family’s return to Somalia can be delayed.
According to UNHCR, more than 24,000 Somalia refugees from the Dadaab camps have been supported to voluntarily return home since the tripartite agreement was signed between UNHCR, Kenya and the Somalia in 2014. This year alone, about 18,000 refugees opted to go back home.