by Chris Mgidu
NAIROBI, May 22 (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said Monday it had repatriated some 64,761 Somali refugees from Kenya since the voluntary return exercise begun in December, 2014.
The UNHCR said in its bi-weekly update released in Nairobi that some 63,535 refugees were supported to return to their home in Somalia from the Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya.
"During the reporting period (May 1-15), a total of 1,478 Somali refugees were assisted to return voluntarily to Somalia by flight from Dadaab," UNHCR said. Some 24,221 refugees returned in 2017 alone.
The UN refugee agency said road convoys to Somalia remained suspended due to the heavy rains in some parts of Somalia rendering roads impassable.
"UNHCR Somalia and its partners are closely monitoring the situation and will alert us once road movements can resume," it said
The UN agency said flights to Mogadishu and Kismayo in southern Somalia currently facilitate the voluntary return of those willing to travel by air.
Regarding return trends, Kismayo continues to have the highest return rate (87.7 percent), followed by Mogadishu (6.7 percent) and Baidoa (4.7 percent).
"There has been reduction in the number of persons repatriated for the last four weeks under review. This reduction could be attributed to the ongoing drought, the cholera outbreak and the recent heavy rains in Somalia," UNHCR said.
More than 2 million Somalis have been displaced in one of the world's most protracted humanitarian crises that has now entered its third decade.
An estimated 1.1 million people are internally displaced within Somalia and nearly 900,000 are refugees in the region.
Experts say continuing political and security stabilization progress in Somalia, along with growing pressures in hosting countries, makes this a critical moment to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees.