Somalis in Djibouti on the increase

Briefing Notes, 5 February 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 February 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Growing numbers of Somali asylum seekers and migrants are fleeing to Djibouti in what may become a new migration route from war-ravaged Somalia to Djibouti and on to the Middle East.

In 2007, a total of 700 Somali asylum seekers fled to Djibouti. So far this year, more than 550 asylum seekers and migrants have already crossed from north-west Somalia, also known as Somaliland, into Djibouti 400 of them during the month of January. At the port town of Obock, north of the Djibouti capital, the number of people leaving the port by small boats has also risen steadily according to port authorities.

During a recent visit to Loyada, a border crossing between Somaliland and Djibouti, border authorities told a joint team of UNHCR and government officials that there is a continuous flow of asylum seekers who group in the no-man's land as they seek to gain entry into Djibouti. Previously, some asylum seekers would make a treacherous journey around the hilly region separating Djibouti and Somaliland to avoid being stranded at the border for days. UNHCR and government authorities have now intervened with border officials to request that the Somali asylum seekers be allowed entry in accordance with Djibouti's international obligations. The government of Djibouti and UNHCR are now looking at possibilities of setting up a reception facility close to the border to receive and screen the asylum seekers before transferring them to Ali Addeh camp which is sheltering some 7,000 refugees. Some 3,500 of these refugees are from south and central Somalia with around 2,800 from Somaliland.

Border authorities also indicate that smugglers have begun to roam the no-man's land offering to take the mixed group of asylum seekers and migrants by boat from an area around the Somaliland town of Zeila, off the coast of the Gulf of Aden, directly to Yemen or to the north of Djibouti before arranging their crossing to Yemen.

Many of those coming into Djibouti are from the south/central Somalia, including the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Baidoa and adjacent areas, as well as Beletweyne. Many say they have spent several months in other towns such as Galcayo, Bossasso and Hargeisa before making their way to Djibouti. Others say they have lived in settlements for displaced people inside Somalia but have not received adequate assistance and have had no means of livelihood. Those crossing the border are mainly young single people, some of whom are hoping to continue to Yemen.

UNHCR continues to call for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. In 2007 alone, more than 29,500 people arrived on the shores of Yemen while over 1,400 died or remained missing presumed dead while making the hazardous journey.




UNHCR country pages

Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

International Migration

The link between movements of refugees and broader migration attracts growing attention.

Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Asylum and Migration

Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

An alarming number of people are dying trying to reach Yemen aboard smugglers' boats crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Over a three-week period in late 2005, at least 150 people perished while making the journey. These deaths are frequently the result of overcrowded boats capsizing or breaking down and going adrift without food or water. Those who survive the voyage to Yemen often give brutal accounts of smugglers beating passengers or forcing them overboard while still far off shore – in some instances with their hands and feet bound.

In response, UNHCR has issued an urgent appeal for action to stem the flow of desperate Ethiopian and Somali refugees and migrants falling prey to ruthless smugglers in a bid to reach Yemen and beyond. The refugee agency has also been working with the authorities in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia, on ways to inform people about the dangers of using smugglers to cross the Gulf of Aden. This includes production of videos and radio programmes to raise awareness among Somalis and Ethiopians of the risks involved in such crossings.

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

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