The Kenya government on Friday announced that over 80,000 Somalia refugees have voluntarily returned to their country following the restoration of peace in the Horn of Africa nation.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku said records from the department of refugees at the largest refugee camp in Dadaab indicate that the families have already relocated and resettled in various parts of Somalia
“Out of the normalcy returning, thousands Somalia nationals through voluntary action have gone back to their country, an indication that the peaceful situation in Somalia is working well for the country,” Lenku told journalists in Mombasa
He said the government will not relent on its plans to repatriate more than half a million Somalia nationals who had arrived in the country as a result of conflict in Somalia.
Kenya hosts an estimated 650,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Somali refugees in Kenya are estimated at 500,000 and the number has increased due to turmoil and recurrent droughts in the horn of Africa state.
He added that cartels engaged in human trafficking are opposed to the repatriation exercise for selfish interests, adding that both Kenya and Somalia have agreed on border security issues.
The cabinet secretary said Kenya will hold an international conference on Aug. 28-29 to draw a roadmap on the repatriation process.
Officials have expressed optimism that the August conference will provide a launching pad for safe and dignified repatriation of Somali refugees.
The meeting to be held in the Nairobi will be attended by Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He added that the two countries have agreed on a range of issues including the need to cooperate and strengthen border security to address the threats posed by Al-Qaida and Al-Shabaab insurgents and other armed groups.He underscored the sense of urgency in providing livelihoods for the refugees to enable them to return home.
The Horn of Africa nation been torn asunder by factional fighting since 1991 but has recently made progress towards stability.
The conflict has left some 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and over 1 million more living in exile in neighboring countries, mostly in Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.
With parts of Somalia showing signs of increasing stability, countries hosting Somali refugees are considering to encourage them to return, while some Somalis have spontaneously decided to move back to areas under government control.
Kenya and Somalia have agreed on a plan to repatriate more than 560,000 Somali refugees from Kenya.