The UN refugee agency has resumed voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees from Kenya after a month- long suspension due to bad weather conditions in the Horn of Africa nation.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its latest Bi-weekly Update on Saturday that voluntary return movements resumed on June 9 following a temporary suspension of return convoys due to rains that made roads impassable in Somalia.
"During the first half of June, three convoys with a total of 265 returnees departed Dadaab and arrived safely in Somalia. The total number of returnees provided with return support packages since December 2014 stands at 2,313 individuals," UNHCR said.
The repatriation is being done through a framework agreed upon in a tripartite agreement among Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR. The estimated number of Somali refugees in the country is 423,244. The Kenyan government has announced plans to repatriate 100,000 refugees by the end of this year.
Dadaab refugee camp, currently home to some 350,000 people, is the largest settlement in the world. For more than 20 years, it has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled a country embroiled in conflict.
The UN refugee agency says Kenya remains a very important country for UNHCR as it has been hosting refugees for more than 20 years.
In the report, UNHCR said the voluntarily return process is being strengthened and new returns areas were announced on June 4 to allow more refugees who have expressed their desire to return to do so.
"This includes Mogadishu, Jowhar, Afgoye, Baledweyne, Wanlaweyn, and Balcad districts in Somalia. This is in addition to the existing areas of return Kismayo, Baidoa and Luuq," it said.
According to UNHCR, while reintegration assistance will only be available in the nine indicated areas thus far, the return package will be given to all refugees seeking assistance to voluntarily return to any area of Somalia.
Moreover, unconditional cash grant provided to returning refugees has also been increased from 80 U.S. dollars to 120 dollars, while persons with special needs will receive 150 dollars (previously 100 dollars).
Kenya, which hosted protracted negotiations that culminated in the formation of the transitional federal government of Somalia, says the refugee situation continues to pose security threats to Nairobi and the region apart from the humanitarian crisis.
Kenya believes Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabaab, who killed 148 people at Garissa University early in April, is behind a spate of insecurity that has hit several parts of northern and coastal regions in the country.