More than 500,000 Somali refugees living in Kenya are to be returned to their home country after the UN refugee agency signed a tripartite agreement with the two governments. Under the agreement, the Somalis will be repatriated voluntarily over the next three years.
The Somalis have sought refuge in Kenya from war and poverty.
Two of the camps they live in, Dadaab and Kakuma, are now so large they are more like towns, correspondents say. There is also a suburb of Nairobi – Eastleigh – that is known as “mini Somalia” because so many Somalis live there.
The refugees fled Somalia after the collapse of the central government in 1991; many of them were born in camps and have never set foot inside their home country.
The two governments and the UN hope to introduce a reintegration programme to help the refugees start new lives in Somalia and take part in the reconstruction of the country.
Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Fowsia Yusuf Adam said her country was preparing for the safe return of its refugees.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) representative to Kenya, Raouf Mazou, said the agreement was a “call to the rest of the international community to commit more vigorously for viable and sustainable solutions for the victims of a conflict that has lasted for way too long”.
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