The first airlifts from Kenya to Somalia in two years left Dadaab in Kenya this week, bringing dozens of Somali refugees home to the north after more than a decade in exile, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
"We hope more refugees will be encouraged to go back to safe parts of Somalia," Toshiro Odashima, who heads the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) office in Dadaabhe, said of the first repatriation to Somalia to take place from Dadaab in two years since 93 individuals left in 2003.
The first group of 43 left Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya for Golkayo in north-central Somalia yesterday, while another group of 16 left today for Bossaso in north-eastern Somalia, UNHCR said.
With the installation of a new Government and its subsequent return to Somalia, many refugees are hopeful about peace in their country and are now willing to return home. UNHCR only facilitates voluntary return to areas that are peaceful, such as the north-east and north-west.
In the last 10 years, more than 157,000 Somali refugees have returned home from Kenya, 75,000 of them benefiting from assistance and transport provided by UNHCR. Another 146,000 remain in Kenya's Dadaab and Kakuma camps, many of them originating from southern and central Somalia, which are not considered safe for return.