Mon | Aug 20, 2018

UN refugee chief urges the world to spend more on Africa

Published:Wednesday | December 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Somali refugee boys recite the Koran at a Madrassa, or Islamic religious school, at Dadaab refugee camp, which currently hosts over 230,000 inhabitants, in northern Kenya yesterday.

DADAAB, Kenya (AP):

The world must do more to help millions of refugees across Sub-saharan Africa, which hosts more than a quarter of the world's refugees, the United Nations said yesterday.

UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi spoke to reporters while visiting what until recently was the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in Kenya.

"You know, it is very difficult to fund programmes in Africa. I am not ashamed to say it," Grandi said, adding that he fights "all the time" for more aid. Some of the world's poorest countries, including Uganda and Ethiopia, host hundreds of thousands of refugees from South Sudan and elsewhere.

Kenya's government wants Dadaab, which hosts over 230,000 inhabitants, shut down, but the UN is urging patience and says all repatriations must be voluntary. A Kenyan court ruled in February that the government must not close Dadaab to refugees.

Some Kenyan officials have argued that the sprawling camp near the border with Somalia has been used as a recruiting ground for the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab and a base for launching attacks inside Kenya. But Kenyan officials have not provided conclusive proof of that.

The UN says more than 32,000 Somalis have returned home this year from camps in Kenya under a voluntary repatriation programme. Human rights groups have raised concerns about refugees being pressured to leave, either by Kenyan authorities, or by the cut in rations by 30 per cent in October.

While touring Dadaab, Grandi spoke to about 20 families of Somali refugees who are set to return home. The UN refugee agency says that about 19,000 refugees in Dadaab are "in the pipeline" to return to Somalia.

Kenya was the last leg of a trip during which Grandi also visited Djibouti and Somalia. He said he met some former refugees who have happily settled in Somalia and others who face challenges and need help. Returning home is a "difficult, brave choice" as Somalia remains fragile, he said on Twitter.

Some parts of Somalia are witnessing drought conditions, and the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab frequently carries out deadly attacks, especially in the capital, Mogadishu. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people.