Over 12,000 Somali refugees returned home in two months

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About 12,000 refugees crossed the border back into Somalia in January and February, the majority from Kenya although conditions back home are not yet viable for large-scale returns, a UN agency said on Wednesday.

In its latest Humanitarian Bulleting released by UN Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued in Nairobi said the returns to Somalia continue at slow pace since conditions in the Horn of Africa nation are not yet viable for large-scale voluntary return.

"The numbers, however, do not indicate intentions and many refugees cross back and forth, sometimes to check on property or find seasonal work," the report said.

The UN says there has been a gradual increase in the number of international aid workers operating in southern Somalia, following the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab from key towns.

Relief agencies working in Daadab attribute the movement to refugees crossing the border back to Somalia as that of refugees returning in search of work in Somalia as well as to check up on their farms and the assess the situation on the ground, especially as Al-Shaabab has ceded many towns and areas following the offensive by the AMISOM forces.

According to UN refugee agency, (UNHCR), the trend of increased returns, mainly from Kenya to Somalia, which saw an uptick in January, continued in February.

"In the first nine weeks of the year, about 12,000 people reportedly crossed the border Nearly 10,500 of the 12,000 arrived from Kenya and Ethiopia, while the rest returned from Yemen and Saudi Arabia," the Humanitarian Bulletins aid.

The movements from Kenya, from where the vast majority of people crossed into Somalia, increased more than eight-fold between November-December and January-February, according to the UNHCR.

According to the report, movements from Kenya were recorded mostly in Dobley (5,241), Diff (1,808) and Ceel Waaq (925). People also arrived in major towns within the border region without stopping at the border posts.

Large numbers of arrivals were also recorded in Baardheere (1, 142) and Kismayo (721) and according to the UNHCR; some of those arriving indicated they did not have authorization to stay in Kenya.

"People further stated that the Kenyan governments' decree to relocate refugees to Dadaab camp led to their return to Somalia. Other reasons included fear of election violence as well as insecurity, robbery, rape, harassment and other acts in the camps, " it said.

The bulletins aid some movements into Kenya were recorded, but these continued to decrease, with 57 people tracked compared to 213 in November-December.

Insecurity in the district was cited as the reason for their movement, according to the UNHCR, adding that movements from Ethiopia decreased from 917 in November-December 2012 to 623 in January-February.

"People arrived in Doolow before moving further to their places of origin located mostly in Bay and Bakool regions," the UNHCR said.

These people stated they travelled to visit relatives left behind in Somalia and some reportedly intend to cross back to the Dollo Ado refugee camps shortly, according to the UNHCR.

Arrivals to the border post (Doolow) with intention of crossing into Ethiopia show a decreasing trend. Statistics show 56 people arrived in Gedo region's border points of Doolow and Belet Xawoo.

These people indicated insecurity caused by Al-Shabaab in Burdhuubo in Somalia as the main reason for movement.

After decades of factional fighting, the Horn of Africa nation has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with a series of landmark steps that have helped bring an end to the country's nine-year political transition period and the resulting security vacuum which rendered Somalia one of the most lawless States on the planet.

These steps included the adoption of a Provisional Constitution, the establishment of a new Parliament and the appointments of a new President and a new prime minister. Endi

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