The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that it has repatriated some 4,753 Somali refugees in Kenya by road between Jan. 16-31 before a court suspended the closure of the world’s largest refugee camp in northeast Kenya.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly Update that in total as of Jan. 31, 44, 365 Somali refugees had returned home since December 8, 2014 when the UN agency started supporting voluntary return of refugees in Kenya.
“During the reporting period, 4,753 refugees were supported to voluntarily return to Somalia by road. Road convoys are organized from Dadaab to Dhobley on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays,” it said.
According to UNHCR, flight transporting returnees to Mogadishu remained temporarily suspended during the month of January owing to the security situation in Mogadishu during the current presidential election process in Somalia.
During the period under review, the UNHCR said it the Voluntary Repatriation Cross Border Meeting was held on Jan. 31 to deliberate on security situation in the 12 areas of return, the impact of drought on repatriation and reintegration process, cross-border peace building projects and enhancing provision of country of origin information as well as monitoring and management of cases of returnees with specific needs.
The UN refugee agency also said ten flights were organized during the period under review, transporting 1,030 non-Somali refugees to Kalobeyei at the Kakuma camp in northwest Kenya.
The latest report comes after Kenyan High Court blocked the government’s decision to shut down Dadaab refugee camp which mainly hosts Somalis, terming the move as unconstitutional.
High Court Justice John Mativo in his ruling termed the directive by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho as arbitrary, null and void.
Justice Mativo said the government’s orders to repatriate Somali refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp were discriminatory and amounted to collective. He also described the orders as excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate.
The UNHCR has since called on Kenya to be flexible in terms of a return time frame in order to meet the different elements of the plan that was devised in 2016, citing a concern that rigid time frames would be difficult to meet.