The UN refugee agency said Thursday it has repatriated some 70,516 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 a total of 68,697 individuals from Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya were assisted in the framework of voluntary return to Somalia.
The UN refugee agency said some 29,383 refugees returned in 2017 alone, noting that currently there are 18,274 registered refugees willing to return to Somalia.
“During the Kenyan election, the Return Help Desks (RHDs) have recorded reduced number of refugees willing to return. Arrangement has been put in place during the election period to ensure continuation of voluntary return by air without stoppage,” UNHCR said.
The UN agency expressed its readiness to receive refugees returning home by road, adding that security assessment on road safety between Dadaab and Dhobley will be carried out after the Kenyan election prior to resumption of the road movements.
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 displaced within Somalia and nearly 900,000 have become 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.