While the world is aghast with the often misnamed migrant movement, we are quietly witnessing a repatriation movement in Somalia where both refugees and diaspora finally have the real ability to go back to their homeland - a feat that seemed impossible until recently.
Although religious extremists continue their violent attacks, it is apparent that they have not struck at peoples’ morale. Instead these attacks have heightened the Somali peoples’ resilience and increased their resolve which demonstrates that they have come to finally claim their rightful land. What the media tends to get wrong is that this migration surge which is dramatized for ratings is in effect a desperate plea of people who have no place. Being a migrant is being in a state of seeking economic, social or political opportunity while being a refugee is being stateless mostly because of the destitution and the destruction of war. These are real people with real lives who have abandoned their homes and everything they knew to flee into the unknown. Europeans have tended to feel a mix of compassion and frustration; however, there is a strange tinge of not comprehending why these refugees are washing up on their shores. The irony demonstrates itself in the complete understanding of why wealthy individuals flee their home countries’ tax policies for other countries; however fleeing war - a war that could be directly linked back to Western countries policies pre-and-during Arab Spring - is deemed unfathomable.
In pursuit of hope
These refugees plea to enter Europe, specifically Germany, is a demonstration of the will to live and to strive to get freedom through education, the universal right to healthcare, and the dignity of employment. Somali refugees in Kenya were not so fortunate. According to the UNHCR, Kenya is one of the largest hosts for refugees in Africa hosting 642,800 refugees of which Somalis make up an astounding 69% (444,000), South Sudanese make up 19.4% (125,210) and Ethiopia and DRC make up 3% and 2% respectively. For over two decades Somali refugees have been at the Dadaad camp, the largest refugee settlement in the world where rape is rampant and children die from starvation. In this camp which is outside plain view, the refugees are given rations of food by the WFP, limited to a couple of miles, living a life of monotony and restriction with constant issues of overcrowding, risk of disease and seasonal floods.
The deep rooted question is what forced Somalis to flee to another country instead of resettling in another part of their own country which is more stable? In effect becoming internally displaced – that is where the intricate and deeply flawed tribal issue presents its ugly rear. However, we are witnessing all that progressively changing and a new era of hope emerging. By September 2015, UNHCR stated that it had “repatriated over 4,108 Somali refugees from Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya to Somalia since December last year.”(UNHCR, 2015) The new phase of repatriation is the result of efforts by the Tripartite Commission, formed by UNHCR, Kenya and Somali governments to repatriate the 425,000 Somali refugees from Kenya over the next five years. The areas of repatriation are the following: Kismayo, Baidao, Luuq, Mogadishu, Jowhar, Afgoye, Baledweyne, Wanlaweyn, and Balcad districts in Somalia.” (UNCHR, 2015) Although aid packages are given to refugees to relocate to these nine areas, the UNHCR has indicated that return packages will be given to all refugees who voluntarily return to any area of Somalia. This voluntary repatriation was deemed impossible just three years ago.
Finally, the return?
Although there have been various calls from Kenyan government officials to shut down the camp and even the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta stating, “that the overcrowded camps at Dadaab posed growing and serious security threats to Kenya and the region” and that his country could no longer carry such a large refugee burden. (The Guardian, 2012) However, the UNHCR spokesperson has maintained a position that repatriation must first and foremost be voluntary – and it hasn’t been, until now. With the rise of militant groups such as Al-Shabaab and their attacks on Kenya, it is clear Kenya would like to limit its exposure. The contributions of the various Somali communities both refugees and migrants in Kenya are numerous and should be the subject of another article. As many Somali refugees as Kenya has hosted, it has flourished with the enterprising nature of Somalis who are major economic players in the country. However, we are now witnessing xenophobic streaks as the host country loses patience as is common in most countries hosting large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers overtime.
The frustrations of those host countries has even gotten to a point where the UK seriously considered through a proposal by some Conservative Party MPs (the Conservative Way Forward group) leasing houses in Kenya to confine asylum seekers as a method of reducing illegal immigrants. This proposal didn’t go through; however, the idea was to “ship immigrants to the UK to safe houses in Kenya and upkeep paid by the UK government as cases are processed.” (The Guardian, 2012). The Tory MP Julian Brazier who authored this report stated “overcrowding in turn holds back economic growth, reduces quality of life and puts heavy pressure on government spending.” (The Sun, 2012) While British Prime Minister David Cameron called for introduction of “stringent measures to curb easy granting of citizenship to foreigners, saying immigrants must be made to pay a premium on all services enjoyed by British citizens.” (The Guardian, 2012). Another example is the Australian government which sends “boatloads of arrivals to the Pacific island of Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea to be warehoused in camps as their asylum bids are processed.” (The Guardian, 2012). In the US, we see Presidential hopeful and business tycoon Donald Trump’s stance on immigration which is a xenophobic disdain of people searching for better lives. His statement that “we get the worst Mexicans” is partly instigating hate but partly true. These illegal Mexican migrants are at the bottom of the food chain. Why would the elite want to leave their country when they have access to all its resources?
Therefore, some would say this repatriation timing is God send. It is happening at an interesting time where various ingredients have collided and most importantly the aid agencies, already overwhelmed, have run out of money. “WFP has just announced that it is going to reduce or has actually already reduced its food rations by 30 percent.” (WFP, 2015) These conditions have definitely influenced refugees to go back, some for the very first time. Many of the refugees have been at the camp since the 1990s and have given birth to children who have never been to Somalia. The world is one big maze of shifting demographics with great migrations. While we watch new countries unravel, we are also witnessing our country, Somalia, repatriating its very own people who never abandoned hope of returning.
Sagal B.H. Musa Corporate Finance and TelecomBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS