The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it has repatriated some 67,778 Somali refugees from Kenya since the voluntary return exercise begun in December 2014.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly Update released in Nairobi that some 66, 238 refugees were supported to return to their home in Somalia from the Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya.
“During the period under review (June 1-15), 703 refugees Somali refugees were assisted to return voluntarily to Somalia by flight,” UNHCR said, adding that some 26,924 were supported from Dadaab in 2017 alone.
The UN refugee agency said road convoys to Somalia remained suspended due to heavy rains in some parts of Somalia rendering roads impassable.
“UNHCR Somalia and its partners are closely monitoring the situation and will alert us once road movements can resume. In the meantime, flights to Mogadishu and Kismayo currently facilitate the voluntary return of those willing to travel by air,” it said.
According to UNHCR, of those who were supported to voluntarily return this year, 87.2 percent went to Kismayo, 8.0 percent to Mogadishu, 4.0 percent to Baidoa, 0.6 percent to Luuq and 0.1 percent to Afmadow.
“There has been reduction in the number of persons repatriated for the last four weeks under review. This reduction could be attributed to the ongoing drought, the cholera outbreak and the recent heavy rains in Somalia,” UNHCR said.
More than two 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 (IDPs) 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.