The first batch of 2,880 Somali refugees who have been accommodated at Dadaab and Kakuma camps in northern Kenya, this week began returning to Somalia, more than a decade after they fled their war-torn country.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said the return operation kicked off on Tuesday, with the airlift of 50 refugees to Galkayo, northeast Somalia [Puntland state]. The UN refugee agency said it also expected to assist the return of a further 300 refugees to Bosaso and Galkayo over the next five days.
"Ten years is a long time in exile. Some of the children returning to Somalia today will be seeing their homeland for the first time, a sad truth but a happy moment," said George Okoth-Obbo, UNHCR's Representative in Kenya.
The 2,880 returning refugees are part of 6,000 Somali refugees who signed up in 2001 to voluntarily return home. Their return however was delayed by a combination of funding difficulties and security problems in Somalia.
Those returning have received an assistance package consisting of basic supplies such as plastic sheeting, blankets and utensils, UNHCR said.
Each family also will receive a transport allowance for their onward trip to their places of origin and a nine month food ration from the World Food Programme. They will also be assisted to integrate into their communities through various development programmes, UNHCR said.
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