On May 6th, the Kenyan government announced plans to close the Dadaab refugee camp, home to several hundred thousand Somali refugees, by the end of this year. Since December 2014, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), supported by donor governments, has facilitated the return of 28,000 refugees from Dadaab to Somalia. However, with Kenya’s push to close Dadaab, the voluntary nature of the returns has been called into question.
The majority of returned refugees have arrived in Kismayo, the capital city of the Lower Juba region in Jubaland, Somalia. Kisimayo, once a stronghold of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, is now controlled by government and African Union soldiers, but just several kilometers outside of the city center, Al-Shabaab remains a potent presence. On August 30th, citing “severe humanitarian challenges,” the Jubaland authorities suspended the reception of new returnees to Kismayo. The city is home to around 40,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), and with a lack of alternative options, some of the returned refugees have taken up residence in IDP settlements there.