In a historic visit, Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke led an official delegation to the Dadaab Refugee Camp, the largest in the world, where he met with Somali refugees.
Despite many challenges, the Somali government said it will cooperate with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Kenyan government to ensure a smooth and voluntary repatriation of over 500,000 Somalia refugees who’ve been living in the camp for many years.
In the early 1990s the Dadaab Refugee Camp became a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing civil war in Somalia. At its peak, Dabaab grew to almost 600,000 people.
Last month, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres met with Sharmarke in Brussels. Their focus was to create conditions for a growing number of people to return to Somalia by scaling up investment to improve socio-economic conditions for the benefit of returnees, internally displaced Somalis, and local communities.
Sources from the Somali government told VOA Somali Service that there are only 45,000 refugees who have left the country voluntarily.
The UNHCR reported in October that nearly 5,000 Somali refugees from Kenya's Dadaab camps have returned home since December 2014 and a further 4,500 have signed up to go back.
At a recent conference in Brussels, representatives from more than 40 countries and organizations pledged $105 million to support Somali refugees in Kenya and help them safely return to Somalia. In addition, a pledge was made to provide training and job opportunities in Somalia for 10,000 returnees.
VOA's Mariama Diallo contributed to this report.