UNHCR Says First Major Group of Ethiopian Refugees Repatriated from Kenya

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ENA,February 20/2020 Ethiopia has repatriated voluntarily 76 refugees from Kenya’s Kakuma camp, according to a press release of UNHCR.

The release stated that it is the first major voluntary repatriation program for Ethiopian refugees in the country.

The movement, supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, is part of a growing trend of thousands of Ethiopian refugees in the region who are voluntarily choosing to return back to their country, following recent developments.

Head of Returnees Section at the Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), Nuruhussien Hassen welcomed the returnees yesterday and said “working closely with UNHCR and other partners, we will do all we can to help you rebuild your lives in the towns and villages of your origin.”

The release pointed out that the majority of those returning had been living in exile for up 12 years, and more than half are women and girls, with some having been born and raised in Kakuma.

UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia, Ann Encontre said “today is a big day for UNHCR. Nothing is more fulfilling than to assist refugees to return home and re-establish themselves afresh in their villages and towns of origin.”

Encontre added that all refugees have the fundamental human right to return voluntarily to their country in safety and dignity at a time of their own choosing.

UNHCR, which organized the return with the support of IOM, is providing returnees with a reintegration package in the form of cash assistance, including transportation allowances to ensure they can travel to their places of origin.

According to the press release, more than 10,000 Ethiopian refugees in regional and neighboring countries have expressed to UNHCR their intention to return home, including those hosted in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

Returnees from Djibouti and Kenya are currently being prioritized, with more than 4,000 Ethiopian refugees expected to voluntarily return home from Kenya this year, and 500 from Djibouti.