At least 24,000 refugees from the expansive Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya have so far been assisted to voluntarily return to Somalia since a tripartite agreement was signed in 2014, a senior UN official has said.
Speaking during the commissioning of a power station in Dadaab, Wella Kouyou, the deputy representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to Kenya, said in 2016 alone, 18,000 have voluntarily gone back to Somalia.
Earlier this year, the Kenyan government announced that it would shut down the camp, saying it was a breeding ground for terrorists.
The country had witnessed a series of attacks instigated by Al-Shabaab militia.
One of the deadliest attacks was at Garissa University College in April 2015 in which over 140 people died, most of them students.
Mr Kouyou said the UNHCR will continue to work with the government to ensure that refugees return to Somalia voluntarily and are accorded safety and dignity.
“We will also make sure that a rehabilitation programme for the refugees is carried out alongside the repatriation process.
"We also thank the international community, from whom we continually sought support,” he said.
Human rights groups have warned the government against forcible repatriation of refugees to Somalia, arguing that the country is not yet stable.
- Refugees wait at the Dadaab airstrip, Kenya on June 16, 2016 as they prepare for repatriation to Somalia. The UNHCR has said 24,000 refugees have so far been assisted to voluntarily return to Somalia since a tripartite agreement was signed in 2014.