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Last Friday we posted about the agreement between the UN refugee agency and the governments of Somalia and Kenya to voluntarily repatriate Somali refugees. Today, we share Juda’s story. Juda is a psychosocial counselor with the Center for Victims of Torture-Dadaab. Although most refugees living in the complex of camps in Dadaab are from Somalia, there are also refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and other countries. Juda is from Ethiopia and tells how news of the agreement has caused him concern.

Juda’s Story

I crossed the border of Kenya in April 2004. I came through Lokichogio, and we were 26 in number. The family members comprised of 19 males and 7 females. After that we travelled to Kakuma where we went through verification process, then we came to Nairobi. In Nairobi, we went to the UN refugee agency to register and were given the movement documents to come to Daadab.

It was in August 2004 when I started living in Daadab. I was 18 years old. I did not come here with my immediate family but with my relatives and friends. I am a refugee from Ethiopia and the current situation there is unstable. Farmers and civilians were relocated against their will to a place where there was no hospitals, schools and/or other social services.

The proposal for refugees to return to their mother countries is very scary. The repatriation process is voluntary, not forced. I think those who have enough skills or who have learnt something professionally, they can volunteer themselves and return because they can help their communities to develop and gain peace within their country.

My concerns about that change is to encourage the youth to develop their skills, go to college to gain knowledge, then it will be easy for them to go back and get good, well-paying jobs in their countries of origin. What I am concerned about is that the agencies (nongovernmental organizations) in the camps who deal with youth issues to provide open scholarships for the youth to extend their skills and abilities so that when they go back to their country, they can use their skills and ability.

In our society we only discussed how the repatriation may take place, we have not discussed this issue with the clients. But with my friends, so far what I heard from friends is that it is for those willing to go and it can take up to three years to begin. Some weeks back this issue of repatriation was very sensitive and even now it is remains very popular.

People are in a very high tension because some of us were born here and our parents have died here. So where do I call home? Kenya is my home and I do not want to go back to Ethiopia again.