Somali Refugees Seek to Return to Somalia After Living in the Dadaab Refugee Camp

Somali refugees board a plane that will take them home to Mogadishu from Dadaab camp in Kenya.  Somali refugees board a plane that will take them home to Mogadishu from Dadaab camp in Kenya. © UNHCR/A. Nasrullah

16 October 2015
Somali refugees return to their home country after struggling to rebuild their lives in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp and home to over 300,000 refugees. Despite its high population, the camp fails to adequately accommodate those in need. The Kenyan government imposed restrictions in Dadaab that restricts refugees’ ability to build permanent structures, travel outside the refugee camp and obtain employment. Consequently, men, women and children are forced to remain in the camp with limited opportunities.
Mohammad Abdula fled as a child to Dadaab during Somalia’s civil war in 1994. Over twenty years later, Abdula has yet to travel outside Kenya. His inability to travel perpetuates his reliance on the Kenyan community: “I am not allowed to get a proper job… I depend on the Kenyans to buy my goods” As a result, many Dadaab residents choose to return to the country they originally fled from.

Aden Noor Ibrahim and his wife traveled with their children to Dadaab during Somalia’s 2011 famine. During their stay at the camp, the family relied on humanitarian agencies’ food aid to survive. Aden attempted to find employment. After an endless search, he finally decided to return to Somalia to find work and provide for his family.

The United Nations estimates almost 5,000 Somali refugees residing in Kenya’s Dadaab camp have returned to Somalia within the last year and over 4,500 refugees applied to return. Although the country still suffers from an unstable economy, limited employment opportunities, and minimal access to education, returnees believe that a better future lies in Somalia than the Dadaab refugee camps.

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