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Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees - A Case Study of the Involuntary Repatriation of Dadaab Refugees

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Since 2014, over 73,000 Somali refugees have been repatriated from Dadaab – the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya’s northeastern province. The majority of these returnees had previously fled from rural areas currently under the control of the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab. For four years, Kenyan authorities labored to shut down Dadaab, labeling it as a breeding ground for terrorists. Human rights groups dismissed such charges as fear mongering and victimization of already vulnerable refugees. In February 2017, a High Court judge in Kenya blocked the government’s plan to close Dadaab, saying it was “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional”. Over 45,000 refugees have since returned to Kismaayo, while significant numbers have returned to Baydhabo and Mogadishu. Most of the returnees do not have land, property or other support systems and safety nets in these urban areas. Somalia’s fledgling federal government has played little part in the repatriation program and offers no support. Local administrations in Jubaland (Kismaayo) and Southwest (Baydhabo) are even weaker, and there is a lack of resources and infrastructure to resettle the returnees. As a result, many of the repatriated Dadaab refugees feel that they have been abandoned.