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First 100 Somali refugees from Dadaab camp in Kenya agree to return home

By Moses Nyamori | August 7th 2015

At least 100 Somali refugees were on Wednesday flown back to the country's capital Mogadishu, kicking off the voluntary repatriation exercise prompted by the Kenyan government.

Two planes carrying 116 citizens of the war-ravaged nation took off from Dadaab, the largest refugee settlement in the world, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

It comes barely four months after Deputy President William Ruto called on the United Nations to relocate the approximately 333,000 Somali refugees, just after Al Shabaab militiamen attacked Garissa University College killing 147 people, mostly students.

The Tripartite Commission formed by UNHCR and the governments of Kenya and Somalia reached an agreement to step up support for voluntary repatriations of the refugees.

"The commission met on 29 July and decided to scale up assistance to Somali refugees in Kenya wishing to return home and agreed on a strategy that envisaged the voluntary repatriation of some 425,000 Somali refugees over a five-year period," said UNHCR.

Other Somali refugees live in Kakuma Camp plus other towns across the country.

According to the humanitarian organisation, "Between December 2014 and early August, 2015, some 2,969 Somali refugees returned to the districts of Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayu."

In addition, some refugees have reportedly returned spontaneously without receiving assistance from UNHCR.

Under the agreement signed by the two countries and the humanitarian organisation, "assistance will be provided to returnees to any area of Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia".

UNHCR has said it will ensure the returnees receive standardised financial and in-kind assistance for safe and dignified return, as well as long-term support to help returnees reintegrate in areas they once fled from.

Only people with specific protection needs will be airlifted while the rest will be returned by road.

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The three parties involved have agreed to strengthen efforts and rally international support for comprehensive and community-based interventions.

Somali has experienced decades of instability forcing over 1.1 million of its citizens to be displaced. More than 900,000 have also sought refuge in other countries, with approximately half the number residing in Kenya.

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