Pete Vowles meets Dadaab refugees deciding whether to return to Somalia

Pete Vowles at Dadaab
Pete Vowles during his visit to the Dadaab refugee camp. Photo: Twitter/NRC_Norway

The Head of the UK’s Department for International Development in Kenya, Pete Vowles, spent International Women’s Day in the refugee camp in Dadaab where he met with those making the difficult decision whether or not to return home to Somalia.

During his visit, Mr Vowles was briefed on the current situation by the Norwegian Refugee Council and met Asha and her family who the NRC are supporting as she makes her decision whether to return home.

Tweeting yesterday, Mr Vowles said the “UK (is) committed to helping build peace and stability for a better life.”

Dadaab refugee
Asha and her family have to decide whether or not to return to Somalia. Photo: Twitter/PeteVowles

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the Dadaab refugee complex will have to be closed for the good of the region, in spite of incessant campaigns by rights groups to have the plan abandoned.

At a joint press conference with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President Kenyatta argued the camp as it is today no longer serves its original purpose of offering temporary shelter.

Dadaab refugee bus
Refugees choosing to leave Dadaab and head home to Somalia. Photo: Twitter/PeteVowles

“Our policy has been clear for some time: The events that led to the establishment of Dadaab are terribly tragic and the best response to that tragedy is to help refugees to return and rebuild their nation,” he said at State House, Nairobi.

“And that is Kenya’s policy and our efforts to hasten repatriation and resettlement of refugees. But as always, these efforts shall remain guided by relevant domestic and international laws,” the President said.

Dadaab refugee camp
The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Photo: Twitter/PeteVowles

President Kenyatta was speaking just weeks after the High Court in Nairobi ruled that the planned repatriation of refugees would be unconstitutional.

Justice John Mativo ruled that Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and his PS Karanja Kibicho had no powers to order closure of the camp, despite claims that there were serious security, environmental and economic concerns.

Initially, the Kenyan government said it would appeal the decision, but yesterday the President said his government would continue to discuss the matter with stakeholders to find a possible solution.