Kenya has repatriated about 300, 000 refugees from the country to Somalia under the Safe Voluntary Return program between the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Government that started in December 2014, Deputy President William Ruto has said.
UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement on November 10, 2013 for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees living in Kenya.
Mr Ruto said it is impressive that out of 500,000 refugees in three camps in Dadaab, Garissa County, 300,000 which translates to 60 percent of the total number of refugees in the County have so far voluntarily moved to Somalia under the program.
Speaking at the UNHCR offices and Dadaab Primary School grounds on Friday, Mr Ruto said Kenya would continue to protect refugees who run from their homes as well as continue with the process of relocation of refugees to Somalia.
“It is encouraging that a good number of refugees have heeded our goal to go back to their homes under the safe voluntary return program,” said Mr Ruto.
Present were National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Garissa Governor Ali Korane and several MPs.
The Deputy President asked the United Nations to continue facilitating the repatriation program.
“We encourage the United Nations to continue facilitating repatriation of the refugees,” said Mr Ruto.
“There can’t be conflict between what’s good for the nation and what’s good for humanity,” added the Deputy President.
Mr Ruto, however, said the country would continue to discharge its duty of protecting those 200,000 refugees who are still in the country as they continue with efforts to fight insecurity caused by terrorism related activities.
He said Kenya is already engaging with its mission of peace efforts in Somalia in collaboration with other security agencies from member countries.
“We will continue to make our contribution in the fight against terrorism as well as hosting of refugees running from their homes. In fact as a country, we carried and we are still carrying the burden of hosting refugees with a lot of grace,” said Mr Ruto.
Mr Ruto said a committee has been formed to vet youths from Kenya who registered as refugees at the Dadaab based camps with the intention of receiving help in terms of education among other development initiatives and who have since been regarded as refugees from Somalia.
“A committee has been formed to vet those youths from Kenya who registered as refugees with the aim of having their lives transformed but who have since been regarded as refugees from Somalia. We are working to solve the problems so that those who are from Kenya are given their identifications,” said Mr Ruto.
At the same time, the Deputy President said the Government would turn the education structures left by the refugees into a modern education centre as part of efforts to improve deteriorating academic standards especially among girls in the region.
Mr Ruto said a team of senior education officials would tour the area next week to inspect the structures with a view to turning them into a modern education centre that include boarding schools for girls and a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) within the next 90 days.
He said the 10 schools initially used by refugees children who have since returned with their parents to their homes in Somalia would be turned into boarding schools to promote girl-child education in the region.
Mr Ruto expressed concern that parents in North Eastern region counties of Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo and Marsabit were not taking the education of their daughters seriously.
“I ask leaders from this region to begin to think on what should be done to have more girls in schools. We must change this paradigm,” said Mr Ruto.
The Deputy President said Kenya and its development partners would use Sh 100 billion in the economic transformation of Northern Kenya and North Eastern region.
Mr Ruto said the funds would be used in the development of water, roads, health, energy and education.
Mr Duale said the exercise of vetting the youths from Kenya who are in refugees data should be accelerated so as to enable them get identification documents.
“These are youths who just registered as refugees with the intention of getting services such as education. But now that refugees are going back to their homes, they have regarded as people of Somalia, which is not,” said Mr Duale.
Governor Korane said county governments would continue to work with the national governmnets in addressing challenges facing the people.
He dismissed calls for a referendum to amend the Constitution aimed at reducing the number of counties in the country.
Mr Ruto also commissioned the Bura water supply. He also launched the Last Mile Connectivity Programme before addressing wananchi at Bura town in Fafi Constituency.