New fighting in Mogadishu displaces more than 200,000

Briefing Notes, 7 July 2009

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 7 July 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The escalating conflict in Mogadishu is having a devastating impact on the city's population causing enormous suffering and massive displacement. By yesterday, the eight-week-long offensive led by the Al-Shabab and Hisb-ul-Islam militia against government forces had driven a staggering 204,000 residents from their homes, making it the biggest exodus from the troubled Somali capital since the Ethiopian intervention in 2007.

According to our local partners, fighting in the past week alone has killed some 105 people and injured 382.

Neighbourhoods affected by the fighting include Kaaran, Shibis, Shangaani and Boondheere in North Mogadishu. These areas have hitherto been islands of peace, escaping much of the conflict and destruction. Many residents are fleeing their homes for the first time since the start of the Somali civil war in 1991.

While many of the displaced were fleeing to the Afgooye corridor, some 30 km west of Mogadishu, which already hosts over 400,000 victims of previous conflicts, the majority are now heading further afield to the Lower and Middle Shabelle, Galgaduud, Bay and Lower Juba regions. Estimates place the number of internally displaced in Somalia at more than 1.2 million.

Despite the fact that the Kenyan border is officially closed and Kenyan authorities are not allowing asylum-seekers to cross into Kenya, the number of people arriving in the UNHCR-run Dadaab refugee complex situated in near the Somali border in northern Kenya continues to rise.

Since May, more than 11,000 Somali refugees have been registered at the refugee camp, bringing to 36,000 the number of Somali refugees who have arrived in the camp since the beginning of the year. According to UNHCR, the actual number of new arrivals is much higher since many of them head directly to urban centres like Nairobi, Mombasa and Garissa. Dadaab refugee complex now hosts some 284, 306 refugees.

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East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In MogadishuPlay video

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In Mogadishu

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits Mogadishu, expresses solidarity with Somali people on eve of Ramadan.
Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.
Somalia: Saving LivesPlay video

Somalia: Saving Lives

Donor support for a specialized maternity-child clinic helps save the lives of displaced Somali mothers.