Kenya has been urged to continue providing refuge to Somalis fleeing violence and hunger in their homeland, a US State Department official said on Tuesday.
“We continue to rely on and advocate strongly for the protection of Somalis inside Kenya, that they should not be sent back into Somalia in order to create some sort of a buffer zone,” declared David Robinson, acting assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
Mr Robinson spoke at a press briefing in Washington on the status of the food crisis in Kenya and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.
His comments came two days after Internal Security Ministry Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia suggested that Somali refugees might be returned home soon.
“The government intends to commence modalities for the relocation of the refugees back to Somalia in liaison with the UNHCR [United Nations High Commission for Refugees] and the international community now that safe havens have been created in Somalia following the ongoing Operation Linda Nchi,” Mr Kimemia had said in a statement on Sunday.
Mr Robinson acknowledged in the briefing that “there has always been a certain amount of tension about the presence of Somalis, large scale numbers of Somalis, in a protracted situation inside Kenya.”
Close to half a million Somalis are living currently at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya.
Mr Robinson added that “clearly the goal of the international community is that at some point Somalis can voluntarily and safely return home.”
He emphasised, however, that Somali refugees “need to have their protection assured inside neighboring countries until they can go home in safety.”
Source: Daily Nation