The UN top envoy in Somalia ended a two-day visit to Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp where he highlighted the gradual progress made in the Horn of Africa nation.
Michael Keating, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, who met with camp residents and some about to return to Somalia, stressed that his visit was a two-way exchange and that what he heard was useful for his work and engagement with authorities in Somalia.
"Every refugee has to take decisions on whether to return on a voluntary basis. Each has his or her own sources of information, including family, friends and the media. But sometimes the news emphasizes the negative, including stories about violence and drought," Keating said on Thursday evening.
"In my opinion -- as the mother of a family that is about to return just told me -- things are gradually getting better in Somalia," he said in a statement issued on Friday in Mogadishu after his visit.
"A consistent theme is that while many believe that things are slowly improving ... they are still worried about security, they are worried about the opportunity to get jobs," Keating said.
According to the UN, Dadaab refugee complex currently has 226,472 registered refugees and asylum seekers. Some 96 percent of the residents of the four camps that make up the complex are from Somalia.
"There is now a stronger state, a federal structure, there are big efforts to try and improve security -- yes, al-Shabab remains a potent threat -- but economic activity is picking up and things are, in a non-linear way, getting better," said Keating.
The first camp of Dadaab was established in 1991 when refugees fleeing the civil war in Somalia started to cross the border into neighbouring Kenya.
A second large influx occurred in 2011, when some 130,000 refugees arrived, fleeing drought and famine in southern Somalia, according to the UN. The number has since fallen to 226,472 from 463,427 people since 2011, primarily as a result of both spontaneous and facilitated returns, as well as voluntary repatriation.