The Kenyan government announced a goal to get 100,000 Somali refugees to return home voluntarily by the end of the year, a government official said Thursday as funding shortages have forced the U.N to reduce food rations for the displaced.
Government officials have blamed refugee camps in Kenya for the rise in extremism in the country. Following an extremist attack on a university in Kenya’s eastern region in which 148 people, mostly students, died on April 2, Deputy President William Ruto gave the U.N. refugee agency three months to close Dadaab camp in Kenya’s east where at least 300,000 Somali refugees live.
The government wants the repatriation to be voluntarily and organized, Harun Komen, the acting commissioner for refugee affairs, said in an apparent subsequent softening of the government’s stance.
He said most of Somalia has become peaceful due to the military operations by the African Union troops against extremist insurgent group al-Shabab. According to the U.N. refugee agency some 2,048 Somali refugees have voluntarily been repatriated since Dec. 2014.
Kenyan authorities say al-Shabab militants have carried out numerous attacks in Kenya since Oct 2011, when the country deployed its troops to Somalia to fight the militants. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the September 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in which 67 people died and the April 2 attack on Garissa University College.
Komen said there is criminal activity in Daadab refugee camp, including harboring extremists, sugar smuggling and gun running and this is the reason non-governmental organizations need a police escort to do their work.
Doctors without Borders evacuated 42 of its staff late May from Dadaab refugee camp to the capital due to security concerns.
The World Food Program said for the second time in just over six months it was being forced to reduce the size of food ratios for about 500,000 refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya. The agency said it expects the rations cuts will continue to September unless new funds are made available.
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