By Nep Journal Correspondent:
Former Wajir South MP and IGAD special representative to Somalia Amb. Mohamed Abdi Affey has been appointed the UNHCR Special Envoy on the Somali Refugee Situation.
The new role will see the decorated diplomat provide advice on how best to address protection concerns and identify appropriate solutions, with the aim of resolving the Somali refugee situation and engage with pertinent regional institutions, particularly IGAD, the African Union, AMISOM and UNOSOM according to the memo.
“Building on the work done in the context of the Global Initiative on Somali Refugees (GISR), the Special Envoy will first help to maximize efforts to search solutions for Somali refugees and asylum seekers at national and regional level and strive to enhance dialogue between Governments of asylum countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen), Somalia and the international community to help maintain asylum for Somali refugees” reads a memo by High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Affe’s appointment.
Mr. Affey has extensive regional experience, notably through his previous function as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)’s Special Envoy to Somalia. He has also served as Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Somalia.
The Special Envoy will be based in Nairobi and will directly report to the UNHCR commissioner in closer collaboration with the Regional Bureau Director for Africa. He is expected to provide specific support to efforts to provide humanitarian and development resources for the reintegration of Somali returnees as per Somali national development plans and regional priorities.
“His efforts will complement and support, at the regional level, those of UNHCR Representatives in the concerned countries. He will also closely liaise and coordinate with relevant external partners and stakeholders including regional institutions – in particular IGAD, the African Union (AU), African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM)” reads the memo in part.
The Somali refugee situation spanned more than two decades, affecting three generations of Somalis.
According to UNHCR, There are currently one million Somali refugees living in exile in the region (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen), while some 1.1 million Somalis remain displaced within Somalia.
Affey’s appointment comes at a time when Somalia was making key security and political gains in some parts of the country. It also comes at a time when there was growing pressure by host countries like Kenya to have Somali refugees returned home.
“It is opportune to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees while also advocating for the preservation of asylum for those in continued need of international protection” said the UN body in a memo on Affey’s appointment.
Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR have signed a tripartite agreement that will see voluntary repatriation of over 300000 Somali refugees mainly in the World’s largest refugee camp – Dadaab.
Already, more than 30000 families have returned home under the agreement.
Kenya intends to close down the Dadaab refugee camps citing huge environment and economic impacts.