The first repatriation in two years of Somali refugees from Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya began on Tuesday when 43 refugees returned home, aid workers said.
"They are mostly families - men, women and children and a few individuals," Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, told IRIN on Tuesday.
Nyabera said the refugees had arrived safely in Galkaayo, in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia, and a second group of 16 was expected to fly to the nearby port of Bossaso on Wednesday.
"We are happy to see these refugees going back to their homeland after more than a decade in exile," Toshiro Odashima, head of UNHCR's Dadaab office, said.
"People started to express interest in returning some time ago, but it was not until recently that they told us they were ready to go back," Nyabera said.
Before leaving Dadaab, the refugees received an assistance package consisting of basic supplies; they were also given an allowance of US $170 to assist them during the initial reintegration period.
Some 134,000 Somali refugees live in Dadaab, according to UNHCR. Another 12,000 live in Kakuma, in northwestern Kenya. The majority of those in Dadaab are from central and southern Somalia.
"This is the first repatriation to Somalia to take place from Dadaab in two years - since some 93 individuals left in 2003 - and we hope more refugees will be encouraged to go back to safe parts of Somalia," Odashima said.
Most Somali refugees fled their country when it was plunged into anarchy after the collapse of the Siyad Barre administration in 1991.
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions