UN backs sum­mit to help So­mali refugees

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THE UN Of­fice of the High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UN­HCR) is back­ing a re­gional sum­mit, led by the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Au­thor­ity on De­vel­op­ment (IGAD) in Eastern Africa, which will take place in March to de­ter­mine last­ing so­lu­tions for So­mali refugees.

More than one mil­lion So­mali refugees who have been dis­placed from their homes for decades are be­com­ing de­spon­dent as they con­tinue to be un­able to re­turn home and donor sup­port is grow­ing fa­tigued, ac­cord­ing to the UN’s refugee agency.

“There is a grow­ing sense of help­less­ness in the camps be­cause peo­ple are feel­ing for­got­ten,” said Mo­hamed Abdi Af­fey, the Spe­cial En­voy to the So­mali refugee sit­u­a­tion for the UN­HCR.

The So­mali refugee cri­sis is one of the long­est-run­ning in the world, with peo­ple who have been dis­placed for more than 20 years. Some one mil­lion live in camps through­out the Horn of Africa, while an ad­di­tional 1.1 mil­lion are dis­placed within So­ma­lia.

“There has been some real progress in So­ma­lia over the past few months, in­clud­ing the suc­cess­ful or­gan­i­sa­tion of elec­tions in­side the coun­try,” ac­knowl­edged the Spe­cial En­voy.

“What’s needed now is to build up in­fra­struc­tures across the coun­try so refugees do not suf­fer when they go back.”

A pro­posed re­gional re­sponse would pro­vide con­tin­ued pro­tec­tion to 262000 So­mali refugees in a camp in Kenya that has been host­ing peo­ple for more than 20 years. When a de­ci­sion was made last year to close the camp, UN­HCR lob­bied the gov­ern­ment with a new plan of ac­tion and de­layed its clo­sure.

“No­body wants to be a refugee for­ever. A re­gional so­lu­tion is the most vi­able so­lu­tion for the So­mali sit­u­a­tion,” said Af­fey, who pre­vi­ously served as the deputy for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter in Kenya. He spoke in Geneva on Mon­day fol­low­ing a visit to So­ma­lia and to refugee camps in Dji­bouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, where 905100 So­ma­lis live.

PIC­TURE: EPA

So­mali refugees in Dadaab, north­east­ern Kenya.

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