Senior State Department Official on Refugee Situation in Kenya and Djibouti

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Nairobi, Kenya
May 6, 2015

MODERATOR: [Senior State Department official] is going to talk to you all today about a host of things. A couple notes: This will be senior State Department official. Two notes on embargoes – anything about Somalia has to be embargoed if it’s going to be used for a Somalia story. So [senior State Department official] is going to talk about some of the Somali refugee issues, but that has to be embargoed, like the other stuff we’ll talk about with [senior State Department official] later, until – we’ll figure out if it’s until he’s wheels-down – it probably will be – but we’ll figure that out. And then second, [senior State Department official] is going to tell you about some funding announcements the Secretary’s going to make – I think two, right? Two announcements?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Uh-huh. One in Kenya, one in Djibouti.

MODERATOR: One in Kenya, one in Djibouti. So those are embargoed until he makes them. But [senior State Department official] is going to give you all the details so you have it before he makes them, if that’s okay. But everything else you can move now – I mean, I don’t know if you will want to, but we won’t post the transcript or anything, obviously, until after all of these are broken. So I think [senior State Department official] is going to do a couple of sort of top-line things, and then we’ll do your questions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay, great. Hi everybody. So I’m [senior State Department official]. As [moderator] said, I’m [identifying information withheld]. So I’m happy to give you a little bit of background and answer some questions on the humanitarian and refugee dimensions of the trip. We’re here today in Kenya, which is an important host to refugees from Somalia, from South Sudan, and from many other countries in the region. When we go to Djibouti on Wednesday, we’ll also be recognizing their role as a host to refugees – mainly Somali refugees, but they’re playing a much more important role as well recently with the crisis in Yemen offering safe haven both for Yemeni refugees, but also if there are country nationals who have transited through Djibouti on their way out.

So together, that sort of covers humanitarian situations in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and the role that Kenya and Djibouti are both playing. The funding announcements that the Secretary will make are today, this afternoon in Kenya -- $45 million in additional support to UNHCR this year for their operations here in Kenya. That brings our total of support to – for humanitarian assistance writ large in Kenya for last year and this year – fiscal years to $289 million – 96 of that last year; 96 million went to UNHCR.

QUESTION: Just – sorry, just do that one more time.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, it’s a lot. So the funding announcement will be $45 million in additional assistance for UNHCR’s operations this year, FY15, added to --

QUESTION: For Kenya.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: For Kenya. For their operations in Kenya.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And that will be for the more than 400,000 Somali refugees that Kenya hosts as well as the 45,000 new refugees from South Sudan that have arrived since the conflict broke out in 2013. But altogether, Kenya hosts some almost 600,000 refugees. That’s in the Dadaab camps, the Kakuma camps, and here in Nairobi.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) spelling?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And I can give you breakdowns of that if it’s helpful. Kakuma?



QUESTION: Okay. And the 289?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So the 289 is the total U.S. government assistance – not just refugee, but all humanitarian assistance in Kenya in FY14 and ’15.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: 96 million of which was for UNHCR last year.

QUESTION: Last year, FY14.


QUESTION: I’m so sorry about this.


QUESTION: No, no, no, I --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I threw so many numbers out.

QUESTION: So 400,000 Somalian refugees, and how many --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Let me get you the actual statistics here. Dadaab camp itself is about 350,000 refugees, mainly Somali. In Nairobi, there’s about 52,000 refugees registered; most of those are Somali. So that gets you to about 400,000 Somali refugees in Kenya. Kakuma camp is a mix of nationalities; there are also Somalis at Kakuma camp. That’s 181,000 refugees according to UNHCR. About 100,000 of those are South Sudanese, 45,000 of whom arrived since the recent violence broke out.

QUESTION: A hundred thousand in Kakuma are South Sudanese?


QUESTION: They hadn’t even have enough time to get that many refugees.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Some of them never went back after their earlier conflict.

QUESTION: That’s right. That’s right.

QUESTION: This was in 2013, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The 45,000 have arrived since December, 2013.



QUESTION: I think we’re good on numbers.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So maybe I’ll just a little bit more on Kenya before we go into the Djibouti stop and Yemen and that funding announcement, if that makes sense. So the refugee element of this trip for the Secretary is to recognize and thank the Government of Kenya for the role that they have played over many, many years hosting many, many refugees from the region. It’s also to urge them to continue to uphold those international obligations, particularly in the light of some public threats that have been made to close the Dadaab refugee camp and send Somalis back to Somalia.

So we’re here to reiterate our support, to stand with the Kenyans on a range of issues, one of which is hosting refugees, another of which is obviously their response to security threats in their own country. We don’t necessarily see these issues as intimately linked, but there obviously are some connections. We would caution the government against blaming whole communities, but certainly agree that Dadaab refugee camp should be secure, Kakuma refugee camp should be secure, and that Kenya does have legitimate concerns that we’re working with them on, obviously, in counterterrorism.

We do support returns to Somalia from Kenya when they’re voluntary and conditions allow. And there are some returns from Kenya to Somalia. We’ve supported UNHCR’s pilot project, which returned 2,000 people this year to Kismayo, Baidoa, and Luuq. And there are a number of spontaneous returns that also receive assistance inside Somalia from UNHCR Somalia and a range of partners. But we would stress that all returns should be carried out under the tripartite arrangement between the governments of Kenya, Somalia, and UNHCR, and that they, again, be voluntary and based on conditions on the ground in Somalia.

QUESTION: Can we make it very clear that the U.S. does not favor the closure of Dadaab, and following on, is it going to be closed at some point?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We do not favor the closure of Dadaab in any of the timeframes that have been discussed. We do support any Somalis who want to go home going home when they’re ready and willing to do so. So one day we hope Somalia will be a place to receive large numbers of refugees who have fled, and it’s for all of us to work together to create that stability in Somalia.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Is there --

MODERATOR: And the Secretary raised this issue with President Kenyatta in their meeting today. And he’ll speak more in the press avail, but he raised it in the meeting today.


QUESTION: Is the additional 45 million, is part of that an effort to encourage Kenya to keep Dadaab open?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It absolutely helps with – yeah, with those commitments. Yeah.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But it – we support UNHCR year after year according to the needs that they express and their appeals. So we gave $96 million to UNHCR here last year; we’ll probably give more again this year. So --

QUESTION: Is that outside the normal mechanism for U.S. support to UNHCR? Is that included in the annual --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So we give in a range of different ways. We gave 1.3 billion to UNHCR last year around the world, and we give to regular country operations, we give to special emergency appeals, we give headquarters funding, we give loosely earmarked regional funding, so there are a range of ways.

QUESTION: This is separate?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So this one – this is within that stream, but it’s earmarked for operations in Kenya.

QUESTION: And then --

QUESTION: But this is new money?


QUESTION: And then --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To be honest, we would have given money this year. I mean, the refugees have been here, so – but this is the money that we’re giving this year so far.

QUESTION: What are the consequences if a country forces a closure of a – it’s against – it’s a breach of international law, because you’re --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It is. So Kenya’s a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. They have – I don’t know the legal term, but they have made that part of their domestic law. I should know that term.

QUESTION: Non-refoulement.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And non-refoulement is the principle of not returning people to a place where they would face persecution. So it would be --

QUESTION: That would apply in this case.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It would be a breach of both international and Kenyan law, yeah.

QUESTION: And you don’t believe – I think a previous senior State Department official said that they don’t think the accusation that it’s a security risk – that the U.S. doesn’t believe that that is – that the camp is a security risk.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have not seen any public connections. We have not seen publicly any connections drawn between the attack in Garissa specifically and the Dadaab refugee camp. We do know that the – some of the medical staff in Dadaab were among the first responders, some of them NGOs funded by the U.S. Government. So we would – basically, we would direct you to the Kenyan Government for the specifics of the investigation, but we haven’t seen anything public that connects the two.

But obviously, the area is an area that has security concerns. We, the United States, have contributed through UNHCR to the security partnership program that UNHCR has with the Government of Kenya in both Dadaab and Kakuma, and that has gone towards police equipment, police vehicles, police per diems. It’s basically assisted the Government of Kenya to increase the police presence and patrolling in Dadaab. And after a spate of incidents in 2011, 2012 – 2011 to 2013 – there actually were no IED incidents or kidnapping incidents in Dadaab in 2014, and we might attribute some of that to the increased police presence and patrolling. We also funded a community policing program, which I think is quite important to build the ties between the refugee communities and the Kenyan security police and other security officials to identify threats.

So I don’t think we can say there are no security threats in Dadaab or the region, but we would urge the Kenyan Government to take a very specific, targeted, individual approach to identifying those threats rather than blaming a community or urging or --

QUESTION: So what would you say the security threats are presently?



SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, there have been no incidents in 2014. Previously, the threats have been IED attacks that have been mainly targeted against Kenyan police as well as kidnapping of international aid workers.

QUESTION: Is it incumbent upon Kenya to prove to the U.S. and to the international community that there are elements of al-Shabaab, particularly in Dadaab, that are using the cover of the camp in order to plan attacks, whether here in Kenya or elsewhere in the region?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think it’s necessarily about proving anything to anyone. I think it’s about working together to identify those threats that might exist and addressing them.

QUESTION: In the areas where Kenya has had buffer zones in Somalia, has there been any issue with preventing people from fleeing who would naturally fall under refugee protection?




QUESTION: What are the chances of this camp – or what are the efforts underway to get this camp reduced in size? I mean, it just keeps growing, isn’t it?




QUESTION: Obviously, it depends on what happens in Somalia and getting that situation fixed, and South Sudan as well.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It does very much. Actually, UNHCR implemented biometric registration in the last several years, and the number actually went down from 407,000 to the 350,000, which indicates – we’re not sure exactly what it indicates, but it indicates that there are fewer people in the camp collecting food on a monthly basis. So some of these may have been spontaneous returns to Somalia, some of them may have moved to other parts of Kenya, some of them may be crossing boats across the Mediterranean to Europe. But they do – they have seen, actually, a reduction in the overall figures in Dadaab in the last few years.

QUESTION: What kind of a strain is placed by the presence of Dadaab and Kakuma on Kenyan resources – educational, healthcare, public sanitation?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. Certainly, there is a – there’s a certain burden that a refugee camp creates, and probably environmental is one of the biggest ones. That said, our assistance and UNHCR’s – our assistance through UNHCR and others does go towards the host communities as well. To the extent possible, aid agencies working there make their services available to the host communities, and that would include education and health services. And we, in our direct funding to NGOs, allow 50 percent to go towards host communities. In some instances, that would even be skills training and livelihoods projects.

So we’re very attuned to the relationship with the host communities and the importance of that, but there’s also been some very interesting studies done, and I would have to get you the actual figures about the economic benefits that the refugee camps bring. I think I saw one that – just the sales of milk from the local community to the refugees in Dadaab is in – $1.2 million a year. So there is an argument actually to be made towards sort of regularizing the economic – regularizing these camps in such a way that they can continue to contribute to the economy.

QUESTION: And pardon my ignorance, but what ability do the people living in Dadaab and Kakuma have to move about Kenya? Or are they essentially restricted to those camps on a daily basis?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: According to Kenya’s refugee act, refugees are supposed to be in camps. Kenya has an encampment policy. That said, there are 50,000 registered refugees in Nairobi. But there has been a move over the last decade, really, to consolidate camps and move refugees to camps. There are different sort of waivers that refugees can apply for that allow them to be outside of the camp, but – which would include medical, educational, and a range of other things.

Last year, the Government of Kenya – are we going on too long or is this --



QUESTION: No, this --

QUESTION: Tell you what, this is good.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is really good.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: All right. Last year, the Government of Kenya issued a – sort of a decree that all those living – all refugees living in Nairobi would be moved to camps. They actually carried out a security sweep operation. Some 30,000 people were detained, a number of them were moved to the camp, 300 people were deported to Somalia. So we expressed our concerns at the time with the way that operation was carried out. There were some strong allegations of human rights abuses, bribery, family separation. Most of those people have made their way back to Nairobi at this point.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you see in the situation in Somalia that some of these people can go back into some areas that have been secured?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So the pilot returns project has been really the important official endeavor so far, and 10,000 people had expressed their interest; 2,000 have returned so far. It is quite organized. I have a map I can show you later of three areas I mentioned where they are going to. It’s Kismayo, Baidoa, and Luuq. And they receive transport assistance, they’re met upon arrival, they’re welcomed by Somali officials, they go through waystations, they’re biometrically registered in Somalia so you can tell now who has left the camp and who has arrived in Somalia. And if they were to come back to the camp, you would know that they had been part of the pilot returns project. And then they receive some reinsertion assistance in their home communities.

QUESTION: Did you say 10,000 had applied and 2,000 had returned?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: 10,000 have expressed an interest, and thus far, 2,000 have returned.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s mainly on hold now due to the rainy season and logistical issues. The High Commissioner for UNHCR Antonio Guterres will actually be in Kenya --

QUESTION: Tomorrow?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- tomorrow. I think he intends to go to Somalia as well; I think looking at the possibilities to accelerate – again, I’ll stress – voluntary returns to Somalia will be high on his agenda. And I think it’s important. I mean, Somalia is a difficult operating environment, obviously, and it’s hard to – for agencies who are used to facilitating and guaranteeing the safety of refugees from point A to point B to consider large mass returns in that environment. At the same time, we have to recognize that there are these spontaneous returns happening and how can they be supported, even if sort of working remotely through local partners.

QUESTION: Kismayo, Luuq, and the other one, they’re all southern Somalia?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They’re all south central, yeah.

QUESTION: South central Somalia, okay.


QUESTION: So they’re all in the areas that kind of – that al-Shabaab was sort of pushed out from over the last couple of years?


QUESTION: And what kind of support --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And Kenya has obviously played a role in that.


QUESTION: And what – I’m sorry, what kind of support is the U.S. providing to Somalia as it helps to resettle?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I’ll just show you a patchwork, but I’m sure you can make this --


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So the green areas is where UNHCR and partners can operate and support both IDP returns – internally displaced returns – as well as refugee returns. The orange areas is where people transit through. The red areas are where they have no presence or ability to assist. People still go home to those areas, but UNHCR tells them, “We don’t have the ability to assist you there, we’ll” – they give them as much information as they’re able to. These kind of hash-y areas right here – this is Kismayo, Baidoa, and Luuq.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So those are the three pilot areas of return, and I believe UNHCR is looking at whether they could expand presumably into some of these areas, but it also depends where people are actually from.

QUESTION: Are the red areas where al-Shabaab is?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s largely the reason why, yeah.

QUESTION: Can you say how much money the U.S. is providing to Somalia to help with the resettling of these 2,000 persons?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I am going to have to get back to you with that.

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I do – I can give you that, yeah. But it would be our contributions to UNHCR Somalia.

QUESTION: Okay. So where is the region in terms of resolving this refugee crisis? Is this something that’s going to be another decade to resolve, sooner, longer than that, and why?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, so much depends on the situation in Somalia. And I think we’ve seen great progress, but it traditionally takes refugees, particularly those who’ve been out of the country for a long time – that’s a big decision to make. So I think probably what you’ll see is some back and forth movement as people go to check on their home areas. I actually was at UNHCR this morning and I was talking to the Somalia rep. She was -- she just came from Somalia.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: She was in Kismayo and she said she met some refugee leaders, actually both from Yemen and from Dadaab, who were in Kismayo to check out the situation. And the – I think the planner – the director of planning or something for Kismayo said, “I myself was a refugee in Dadaab, I was educated in Dadaab. I decided to come back. I got this good job.” So it’s moving in that direction, but I couldn’t guess for you – is it going to be a decade before until all the refugees go home? I think, frankly, not all the refugees will go home, but that’s hard for Kenya to hear, but a large amount will. Ethiopia has been – Ethiopia also hosts large numbers of Somali refugees and they have been quite helpful in sort of regional, diplomatic conversations making the point that earlier – populations of Somali refugees from earlier conflicts in Somalia that Ethiopia had hosted had by and large gone back. So we often encourage them to talk to their neighbors and urge patience.

QUESTION: So is it down from the peak or is that – is it pretty much stable now?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The last major wave from Somalia was 2011, and that corresponded both with the famine and with increased conflict.

QUESTION: And has it gone down since then, do you think?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In terms of refugee numbers?


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is sort of what we were talking about. The numbers in Dadaab themselves – part of that’s due to better counting and biometric registration, but those numbers have actually reduced. But you still see new arrivals – Ethiopia sees new arrivals, Kenya still sees new arrivals. The situation in Somalia is very fluid, so as the conflict shifts you see people both prepared to go home and leaving Somalia.

QUESTION: And then in Djibouti, he’s making – he’s going to have a similar focus and maybe even another funding announcement?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, so Djibouti – we will recognize the role, certainly, that Djibouti has played as a host, also to Somali refugees. There’s only about 15,000 Somali refugees in Djibouti but Djibouti’s tiny, so relative – it’s all relative. We recently gave UNHCR $2 million for their operations in Djibouti, and I believe that will be part of the Secretary’s press avail, so that’s also embargoed.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Two million, yeah. But I think what will be a very big focus now and is actually impacting not just Djibouti but obviously the region, is the crisis in Yemen. So the funding announcement that he’ll be making in Djibouti is $68 million in various streams of U.S. humanitarian funding for agencies operating in Yemen. Yemen was a crisis before this latest crisis. You would have seen – food insecurity was extremely high; there were large numbers of displaced people. Yemen hosts 245,000 Somali refugees. There are about a million Somali refugees in the region.

So this money – the 68 million will go for UNHCR; it will also go for the International Committee of the Red Cross, for UNICEF, for the World Food Program, International Organization for Migration. And these are all key partners of the U.S. Government, both PRM and USAID. There are some 16 million people in Yemen who are deemed to be in need of assistance right now.

QUESTION: One-six?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: One-six million. That’s basically has to do with the food insecurity numbers, because essentially the whole country’s becoming food insecure at this point – 350,000 newly displaced by this current crisis, and it’s a really, really rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen right now. So it was bad before with the latest military operation. Most agencies evacuated all of their international staff. The International Committee of the Red Cross is the one agency still operating with international staff. The rest of them are continuing their operations with national staff who are working under extremely, extremely difficult conditions. Agencies are working to get aid in both by air and by sea. It’s extremely complicated, as you can imagine, to de-conflict these aid shipments with an ongoing military campaign. So we have also discussed with Riyadh several times how we can improve the flow of communication to ensure more humanitarian access for agencies trying to work in Yemen. One of the most critical needs right now is for fuel. Agencies can’t move around without fuel. There are actually some humanitarian stockpiles in the country, but they can’t be moved to those who are in need without the fuel to do so. Trucks and vehicles are also worried about moving on the roads given the ongoing bombing campaign.

So the resolution, which I should have the number of – I can get you – the recent UN Security Council resolution did call for a humanitarian pause. That’s something that the U.S. Government supports so that aid agencies would be able to get to those in need, those who are wounded would get to hospitals, third-country nationals could evacuate, and that some of the stocks that are inside the country could actually be prepositioned and move forward to the areas of greatest need.

QUESTION: That pause is not defined, right? When, how long --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s not defined. It’s a matter of --

QUESTION: Logistics.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Diplomatic discussion right now.

QUESTION: Could you clarify the number of Somalis who are in Yemen? And then also, this new aid package that’s being announced, who is that target? Is that for refugees? Is it for people who’ve been affected by the crisis that you mentioned in general? Who are the – going to be the recipients in Yemen?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay, so I’ll start with the second question. It’s all of the above. It’s also billions affected by the conflict in Yemen right now, which is vast. That $16 million figure – again, I think it mostly represents those who are in need of food assistance, but the bakeries can’t operate without fuel. The water pumping stations are not operating right now without fuel, so it’s really affecting every basic need of people in Yemen.

There are 245,000 registered Somali refugees. UNHCR tracks 100,000; 100- 140,000 of them more closely. So it means at some point 245,000 Somali refugees arrived in Yemen, but UNHCR is in closer contact with a smaller number. There’s an estimate that there’s up to a million Somalis in Yemen, which means the remaining two – three-quarters are essentially migrants.

This gets to an interesting point, which is that of those who are fleeing Yemen right now, you have Yemini refugees; you have third-country nationals, some of whom are being assisted by IOM, including U.S. citizens; and you also have Somalis who have decided to leave Yemen, a mix of those who had been registered as refugees and those who are presumably there as migrants. Right now the contingency planning – IOM and UNHCR, which are two of the organizations that we support, two of our key organizations, are co-leading the contingency planning for this. They’re looking at over the course of the year up to 100,000 arrivals in Somalia, which we’ve just talked about how challenging that could be, and 30,000 in Djibouti.

So far, 3,500 people have arrived in Somalia. They have arrived in Somaliland and Puntland. If you look at the map, you see where the ports – actually, I have a better one that shows you. Most of those people have been Somalis; some of them have been Yemeni refugees. In Djibouti, about 1,000 Yemeni refugees have arrived thus far, but about 8,000 people have transited through – these are evacuees of various nationalities. So we will really be thanking the Government of Djibouti for the role they’ve been playing. They have essentially said anybody can come. I mean, they’ll do security screening, but anybody --

QUESTION: Wait, who said that?

QUESTION: Djibouti.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Government of Djibouti has said anybody who’s fleeing the conflict in Yemen can come. They have allowed U.S. citizens to bring their Yemeni family members with them, which makes sense because they’re allowing Yemeni refugees as well, so we’re very, very grateful for that hospitality.

QUESTION: Is – Somaliland and Puntland are by the – that’s the horn actually, right, the north and the --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So Somaliland is on the top and Puntland is the horn.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So Bosaso is in Puntland and Berbera is in Somaliland. I have a map here somewhere.

QUESTION: Could things possibly get any worse?


QUESTION: Could things possibly get any worse?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: In the world? (Laughter.) There are more people displaced in the world today than World War II.

QUESTION: No, but just in the Horn and in – and across the way in the Arabian Peninsula, you now have people fleeing fighting first from one place, now from another --


QUESTION: -- and they’re going to a place that only has about a million or so citizens in some cases. I mean, it just seems --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, the geography shows there’s always been close connections between the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

QUESTION: Right. But to be running --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mostly the migratory flows have been to the north, yes.

QUESTION: North, right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. I mean, it’s hard to imagine how dire the situation is in Yemen that people are deciding to return to Somalia.

QUESTION: And that’s entirely mandate, is it not?


QUESTION: I mean, there’s nothing --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I can’t go into depth about the – well, it’s not a natural disaster, yes.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And neither is the food insecurity, yeah.

MODERATOR: You all look depressed now.

QUESTION: So what is the Secretary expecting to say? What he is expecting to learn during this meeting this afternoon? Do you have any insight?



SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m very interested myself. I’ve been to Dadaab. I went to Dadaab in 2012, and at that time most of the international staff had been evacuated because of these kidnapping threats, and the Kenyan Red Cross had taken over a number of services – absolute heroes. If they weren’t heroes before the Westgate attack when they rescued people from the mall, they – I mean, they were already, in my mind, heroes from what they have been doing in Dadaab.

They work alongside Somali staff, and I met in this therapeutic feeding center in Ifo – there are five camps in Dadaab actually; it’s a camp complex, there are five different camps, so it’s the largest camp complex in the world. It’s not one camp. I met Somalis, young Somalis who had been born in Dadaab, who had gone to school in Dadaab, who had worked with international NGOs in Dadaab. They could have gone back to Somalia, and they can go back to Somalia and start an NGO and start a therapeutic feeding program on their own with the skills that they have, all on-the-job training. But when you’ve worked with Medicins Sans Frontieres, Action Against Hunger, the Kenyan Red Cross for all these years, they’re highly skilled and to some extent educated.

And I think – I hope what the Secretary will hear, he’s going to talk to both refugee leaders who are representatives, appointed and elected representatives of their communities, and what I’m really, really hoping is going to work is a video linkup with a student – a classroom of secondary students in Dadaab so that they can speak to him also directly. And I think they’ll – I’m sure the refugee leadership will start with thanking Kenya for the safe haven that they’ve provided, but also note that they are scared by what’s been said in the press, that they do face harassment, that they want to work together with the Kenyan Government to address any security concerns. They fled al-Shabaab and they’re very worried about if they were sent back to Somalia that their young people would be recruited by al-Shabaab, and that’s not what they want.

QUESTION: If the Kenyan Government goes ahead and decides to shut down the camp and send the refugees back, what happens to the money that we’re providing? Would that then be yanked? Is there --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, first, it’s almost logistically impossible to shut down the camp. What is possible is something like the urban roundups we saw last year, where you – it’s a – some kind of gestures are made towards sending people back across the border. And Kenyan officials have said in the press recently, “We are not going to be taking 350 people – thousand people and throwing them across the border.” They have actually walked back a bit of the rhetoric and talked about the importance of voluntary returns, talked about the tripartite framework. There was a meeting at the tripartite entities last week, but reiterated their intent that Somalis should go back to their home country. And that’s okay. That’s a space that we can all work within.

But should there be another terrorist attack, should there be greater political pressure, it’s a real threat. That’s why you see the Secretary raising it. That’s – or it’s a concern, I should say. That’s why you see the Secretary raising it and that’s why you see the high commissioner coming to visit.

QUESTION: And would this extra money the U.S. is providing, would it be yanked then?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We would not support any involuntary returns, so we would look at UNHCR’s reactions – and they’re doing contingency planning now assuming that there would be some who would remain on this side of the border, maybe some who – I don’t know. I mean, these are all, like, scenarios.

QUESTION: Right, but the money’s going to UNHCR, who would see --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They would not – yes, UNHCR would not participate in involuntary returns. Yeah.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So it would possibly be reallocated. Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you think that some of the change in the Kenyan rhetoric is because the Secretary was on his way here, because Guterres is on his way here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’ve been making – our ambassador has been talking to the Kenyan Government ever since they made these announcements. We’ve been diplomatically engaged both here and from Washington, through our regional partners, through neighboring governments. So I think diplomacy has probably played a role, and that’s good.

MODERATOR: I think we can probably just do a couple more.

QUESTION: Can we just discuss the – real quick the Somalia part of the trip? Just in an embargoed setting, what he’s going to talk about tomorrow when he goes there and --

MODERATOR: Tomorrow’s not Somalia.

QUESTION: That’s not tomorrow?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Djibouti’s tomorrow, right?


MODERATOR: Tomorrow’s a day off. Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Then we’ll go to Djibouti – then we come back and we’ll go to Djibouti. Well, there are aspects of the trip that I’m not prepared to do the background on, which is the role of AMISOM and the Somali Government’s evolution.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

QUESTION: Well, what can you say about Somalia’s --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But I think – yeah, what can I say about Somalia? So we are also concerned about the humanitarian situation inside Somalia. There are – I mean, I could get you some of the statistics but I don’t have them right at my hands. There are a number of internally displaced inside Somalia and have been for many years. We have supported voluntary returns of internally displaced where possible inside Somalia. As Mogadishu --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As the situation in Mogadishu evolves in positive ways with more people coming home from the diaspora, with security somewhat improving and with – as I understand it; I haven’t been there – a fair amount of investment from overseas, we’ve also seen that this has had a negative effect on some of the internally displaced who had been living in Mogadishu throughout the conflict, and there’s been large numbers of evictions from private property in the last few months. And so that’s one of the issues that we’re watching quite closely and working with the government to identify where is an appropriate place that these people can stay. Obviously, we want to see the revitalization of Mogadishu and to see investment and development, but this has also been a safe haven for a lot of people throughout the war, so they need another safe place to go. So to the extent that they can go home, that’s fine, we support that, but they may need secondary sites close to the capital that they feel – where they would feel secure.

QUESTION: Did you say there was aid deliverable for Somalia also? And then if so, what will that be?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There isn’t an announcement for Somalia, but I can get for you our own humanitarian funding as it stands this year for Somalia.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Anything else? I mean, [senior State Department official] will be here, obviously, for a while, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, I’ll be here. I’ll be on the plane to Djibouti so I’m happy to talk to you all more.

QUESTION: Yeah, great.


QUESTION: Thank you.