UNHCR returns nearly 62,000 Somali refugees from Kenya

  • As US Senators relocate to White House over North Korea

The UN refugee agency on Tuesday said it had repatriated 61,665 Somali refugees in Kenya since the exercise began in December, 2014.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly Update released in Nairobi that some 1,836 refugees were supported to return to their homes in Somalia in the past 10 days.

The UN agency said 22,351 out of 61,665 refugees were supported in 2017 alone, adding that 20,991 refugees were currently being registered for voluntary repatriation.

“Road convoys to Somalia are suspended due to the heavy rains in Dadaab area of operation and some parts of Somalia.

“UNHCR Somalia and its partners are closely monitoring the accessibility of roads in the 12 designated return areas,” it said.

However, UNHCR said flights to Mogadishu currently facilitated the voluntary return of those willing to travel by air as well as flights to Kismayu in southern Somalia.

More than two million Somalis have been displaced in one of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises that have now entered its third decade.

An estimated 1.1 million people are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Somalia and nearly 900,000 are refugees in the region.

Experts say continuing political and security stabilisation progress in Somalia, along with growing pressures in hosting countries, makes this a critical moment to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees.

In the meantime, top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire US Senators on the situation in North Korea.

The briefing will take place at 1900 GMT.

Aides said they were working with the White House to schedule a similar briefing for the House of Representatives.

All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday.

While administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy matters, it is unusual for the entire Senate to go to the White House, and for all four of those officials to be involved.

Wednesday’s briefing was originally scheduled for a secure room at the Capitol, but President Donald Trump suggested a shift to the White House, congressional aides said.

Washington has expressed mounting concern over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

Trump, who called the leaders of China and Japan during the weekend, told U.N. Security Council ambassadors on Monday that “the status quo” is not acceptable, and said the council must be ready to impose new sanctions.

Congressional aides suggested the briefing was being held at the White House to underscore the message to North Korea that Washington is serious about wanting a shift in policy.

A senior Trump administration official said the flurry of activity around North Korea was “not a part of something choreographed” and cautioned against over-interpretation.

Senators said they were happy to be hearing from the White House.

“It’s (the location) their choice,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I hope that we hear their policy as to what their objectives are, and how we can accomplish that hopefully without dropping bombs.”