UN agency returns 62,372 Somali refugees from Kenya

NAIROBI, May 8 (Xinhua) — The UN refugee agency said Monday it had repatriated some 62,372 Somali refugees from Dadaab camp in northeast Kenya since the return exercise begun in December 2014.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly update that some 707 refugees were supported to return to their home in Somalia voluntarily in the past ten days.

According to the UNHCR, some 23,058 refugees out of 62,372 returned in 2017 as the UN refugee agency steps up returns to the Horn of Africa nation.

The UN agency said road convoys to Somalia remained suspended due to the heavy rains in some parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

UNHCR Somalia and its partners are closely monitoring the accessibility of roads in the 12 designated return areas. However, flights to Mogadishu and Kismayo currently facilitate the voluntary return of those willing to travel by air.

Kenya has been collaborating with the UNHCR to ensure a smooth and voluntary repatriation of over 245,000 refugees living in five camps at the Dadaab refugee camp.

The UN agency has said it expects the majority of the remaining refugee population to return to Somalia throughout 2017 and possibly into early 2018.

“The cumulative total number of persons repatriated from Kenya to Somalia currently stands at 63,491,” said the UNHCR.

The UNHCR said there has been reduction in the number of people repatriated for the last four weeks under review. This reduction, the UN agency said, could be attributed to the ongoing drought, the cholera outbreak and the recent heavy rains in Somalia.

“Assistance to voluntary return is ongoing in all Dadaab camps to ensure that the remaining active 21,213 refugees registered for voluntary repatriation are assisted in the most effective way,” it said.

More than 2 million Somalis have been displaced in one of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises that have now entered its third decade.

An estimated 1.1 million people are internally displaced within Somalia and nearly 900,000 are refugees in the region.

Experts say continuing political and security stabilization progress in Somalia, along with growing pressures in hosting countries, makes this a critical moment to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees.