This week, a group of 850 refugees left Dadaab refugee camp for Somalia under the ongoing voluntary repatriation program.
According to Mr. Collins Guedje, UNHCR head of operations in Hagadera Camp field office, about 7000 refugees have been repatriated since the beginning of this year.
It is projected that about 79,000 more refugees will return home by the end of this year.
This followed the temporary suspension of the program last year following heavy rains in parts of Somalia which made most roads impassable and only resuming in January this year.
Again it’s coming at a time when the UN refugee agency is facing a cash crunch as a result of an explosion of the refugee population in the Middle East and under funding from its major donors.
The impact has been a massive cut in food rations and other necessities for refugees. Some organisations have been forced to undertake job cut in the face of these new financial challenges.
This has led to the closure of the once smallest camp called Kambios after most non-Somali refugees were relocated to a newly established camp in Kakuma called Kalobeyei, more than a thousand kilometers away.
Kambios was the youngest of the five camps that make up Dadaab refugee complex having been established 3years ago and was mainly inhabited by non-Somali refugees like Ugandans, Ethiopians, Congolese, and Burundians.
For a very long time, conflicts witnessed between the host and the refugee community.
In most cases, refugee camps are located in the remote, underdeveloped and undesirable parts of any given country characterised by unfavorable climatic conditions.
As a result of the host community always feels marginalised. Therefore tensions and conflicts between the host community and refugees have always arisen due to environmental degradation resulting from the strain on available resources such as water, firewood, and available land.
Secondly, the negative perception by the host community and the government that refugees harbor criminals and therefore a security threat.
Thirdly, humanitarian agencies are seen to serve refugee population better and enjoy better access to water, food, health, sanitation and education. At times these tensions and conflicts have turned deadly.
Alive to these facts, the UN refugee agency and the Government came up with a framework to address these challenges.
As a vision 2030 blueprint, Kalobeyei is geared towards establishing an integrated settlement area, in which refugees and the host community have access to social services and develop economic ties to build sustainable livelihood amongst them.
It’s a socio-economic development program(KISEDP) that is being undertaken by the Kenyan Government,UN agencies like UNHCR,UN-Habitat,FAO,WHO,Unicef,development actors-World Bank,NGOs,private sector and civil societies.
This new initiative is expected to accommodate more than 60,000 refugees and host communities.
The short term’s objective is mainly humanitarian while the long term is sustainable development that is to be implemented through four thematic areas: sustainable integrated services delivery, skills development, spatial planning and infrastructure development, agriculture and livestock development and private sector and entrepreneurship.
It will work to create harmonious coexistence between refugees and the host community while avoiding potential conflicts that have been witnessed in other camps.