December 21, 2019
FILE – Somali refugee families wait to be flown to Kismayo in Somalia under a voluntary repatriation program, at the airstrip of Dadaab refugee camp, in northern Kenya, Dec. 19, 2017.
By Abdiwali Abdi Mohamed | VOA News
Somali and South Sudanese refugees in living in Kenya’s sprawling Dadaab refugee camp say they need greater freedom of movement and more consistent support from donors if they are to establish new lives.
Speaking at the Global Refugees Forum this week in Geneva, the refugees talked about their uncertain future and the absence of opportunities in Kenya.
Mohamed Ahmed Abdisalam has been living in Dadaab since January 2009 when he fled Somalia. He says the refugees in Dadaab lack the freedoms needed to find employment or set up businesses.
“We are living in an open prison,” Abdisalam said. “We don’t have legal papers to move around and seek jobs. We need mental freedom, and to travel without fear.”
“Refugees are just like any other people, any other human being. They have rights to education, they have rights to shelter, they have rights to scholarships, and they have rights to waters and everything,” says another Somali-born Dadaab resident, Aden Mohamed Hussein.
Many Dadaab residents would like to leave but are stymied by lack of financial support and the still unstable situations in their home countries.
Over 80,000 Somalis have returned to Somalia since the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees started a voluntary repatriation program in 2014, but it’s believed many of them returned to Dadaab.
“People are coming back because they are not getting support, they are not even getting all of the small money promised to them,” said Deqa Jeylani Mohamed, a Somali who has been living in Dadaab since 2007.
An U.N. official who worked with the returnees told VOA Somali that each refugee who returns voluntarily is supposed to receive $200, plus payment of school fees for the children for six months after they arrive home.
He said some families move around Somalia and in the process lose their benefits.
But officials say the main reason driving the people back to Dadaab is continued violence in some parts of Somalia. Al-Shabab continues to carry out terrorist attacks, and clan conflicts makes other areas unsafe.
Muhumed Abdulkadir Aydarus, who was living in Ifo, one of the Dadaab refugee camps, says the refugees who stayed behind are not receiving the necessary services.
He says there are not enough funds for sanitary and roads in refugee camps like Dadaab.
“A house collapsed on a family, they have not received help,” he said. “Look at the roads in Dadaab – they look filthy; the humanitarian agencies could not afford to spend money on sanitation.”
James Awuok, a refugee from South Sudan, says Dadaab refugees need durable solutions.
“We need assistance, and up to now the assistance that we are getting (is) to sustain our life in Dadaab. But we need also durable solutions that can help the refugees. There are so many vulnerable children who have been long living in the camp. There are also orphans … widows and widowers in the camp, and up to date there is no any assistance that they have got. They are still suffering more than the dignified manner.”
Mangar Makuach arrived in Kenya from South Sudan in 2002 when he was just 12 years old. He says refugees from South Sudan have lots of challenges that have not been overcome. Most vulnerable of all are the widows and the children separated from their families, he says.
They have been helped by just communities who are living here, but there is no standard help that has taken place,” he said.
He says it’s the right time that refugees raise their voice at a time when world leaders and donors are meeting in Geneva.
“It’s better for us to be given durable solutions, for instance if peace comes in South Sudan, well and good, we can go sort our lives there; if there is no peace, what do we do? We need help,” he says.
“We are not talking about energetic people like us, but we have so many people underground, those are the people that are the backbone of the communities, and if these people are brought up and given adequate chances these people will excel.”