This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 16 October 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Since December 2014, UNHCR has helped nearly 5,000 refugees return to Somalia from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps and another 4,500 have signed up at a help desk at the camps to go back. Returning refugees are assisted with transport to their places of origin, mostly in Kismayo, Mogadishu, Baidoa and Luuq in South and Central Somalia. They also receive a cash grant, food and basic domestic items such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets, a solar lantern, hygiene supplies and kitchen utensils to help them start a new life. At the same time, more than 26,000 Somali refugees have fled violence in Yemen and returned to Somalia, mostly to Mogadishu.
Security and socio-economic conditions in many parts of Somalia are not right for large-scale returns. Many refugees remain doubtful about returning, but some are eager to leave life in exile behind and help rebuild their country. To end one of the world’s most complex refugee situations it is vital to make sure that the small number of returns can be successful and contribute to a more peaceful and stable Somalia. More support and investment in the country’s social and economic infrastructure are urgently needed. While security remains a concern, the lack of equipped public schools and of job opportunities is cited by many as stopping them from going back.
To rally international support for Somalia, UNHCR and the European Union are organizing a pledging conference next week, on Wednesday 21 October, in Brussels. UN High Commissioner António Guterres, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy HE Federica Mogherini and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Mr. Neven Mimica will welcome the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia HE Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs HE Amina Mohammed together with the high level delegations from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen. They will present a plan of action to prepare for the sustainable returns of Somali refugees from the region to Somalia and to rebuild the areas of return. The main focus will be on rebuilding the infrastructure, reinforcing law enforcement, education, water and sanitation, health care provision, shelter, agriculture and the creation of job opportunities to representatives of more than 30 donor countries and organizations. The plan requires a total of US$500 million and will run for two years until the end of 2017.
More than two million Somalis remain displaced in the region, including over 1.1 million in their own country and 967,000 as refugees in the neighbouring countries. The majority (420,000) are living in Kenya, mostly in the five refugee camps in Dadaab in the north-east of the country. Nearly 250,000 Somali refugees are living in Ethiopia and an estimated 200,000 in Yemen.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
- In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 9213
- For the European Commission in Brussels: Stacey Vickers on mobile +32 2 29 94153