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Returning Somali Refugees Rebuild Lives


Ibrahim Bundid, 40, is one of thousands of returnees. Kismayo presents a better opportunity for him than his hometown (Afmadow), which is 135 km from , Kismayo, Somalia, Nov. 18, 2016. (M. Yusuf/VOA)


Abdullahi Mohamed, a former refugee from Somalia, has returned to his country in search of work.

Mohamed, now in his 20s, spent many years living in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Now he is one of about 18,000 former refugees who live in the Somali city of Kismayo. He is fixing automobiles and learning how to be an auto mechanic.

His training will continue into February.

Mohamed hopes to have a better future than other former refugees because he is learning how to do a job.

Thousands of refugees are returning to Somalia after living in camps in Kenya. When they were away, some went to school but many depended on assistance from aid organizations. They did not get a good education or learn a how to do a job.

“At least here, I have got something to learn and do,” Mohamed said.

There is a concern that the returnees will have trouble starting new lives without the skills they need for a good job.

That is why organizations like the American Refugee Council are supporting job training programs. The council also wants to be sure the young men who did go to school in the camps do not join militant groups like al-Shabab.

Abdi Ibrahim Abdi Barre is the deputy mayor of Kismayo. He is concerned young men with a high school education might be asked to work with chemicals and make bombs.

“Young people are vulnerable,” he said. “If they are not provided with the skills, education and materials they need to pursue their goals, then people will take advantage of them."

At one point, the Dadaab camp was home to more than 300,000 people. Most of them were from Somalia.

The Kenyan government said it would close the camps, so many native Somalis went home.

Shafii Ali returned home to Somalia after living in a refugee camp in Kenya. He is now learning to make window frames.
Shafii Ali returned home to Somalia after living in a refugee camp in Kenya. He is now learning to make window frames.

The United Nations refugee agency said at least 34,000 refugees have returned to Somalia. But they do not have much to return to. Many have criticized a lack of jobs and other services.

In Kismayo, the American Refugee Council is helping 20-year-old Shafii Ali. He is learning to make window frames. He builds the frames and adds the window glass. At first, he did not think he could do the work.

After three months of training, the young man said he wants to open his own business and help teach other former refugees how to make windows.

Abdullahi Mohamed said that he and the other returnees need to depend on themselves instead of other people. He said they need to forget about how their lives worked in the refugee camp.

Abdi Barre said the future of the returning refugees should be a national concern and not limited to aid agencies.

“Everyone should be involved,” he said.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Mohammed Yusuf wrote this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think Somalia should do about all the refugees coming home? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

mechanic– n. a person who repairs machines (such as car engines) and keeps them running properly

vulnerable – adj. easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally

council – n. a group or organization

frame – n. the structure that gives shape or strength to something

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