UN High Commissioner for Refugees applauds Kenya's decision to open Ifo II camp

Briefing Notes, 15 July 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 July 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has welcomed yesterday's announcement by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that Kenya is to open the Ifo Two extension at the Dadaab refugee complex near the border with Somalia.

In separate letters to Kenya's president and its prime minister, Guterres applauded the decision and promised UNHCR's full support. UNHCR believes the opening of the extension is important for easing congestion at Dadaab, where some 1,300 Somali refugees have recently been arriving every day fleeing conflict and drought in Somalia.

Including those living on the camp outskirts the number of Somali refugees in and around the Dadaab camp has swollen to 380,000. UNHCR plans to begin a massive airlift this weekend to bring tents and other aid supplies to the remote border region.

Dadaab, an already overcrowded complex of three separate camps spread over 50 sq kms of desert some 80 kms from the Somali border, is struggling to cope with an influx since the beginning of the year of some 60,000 new arrivals fleeing conflict, drought and famine in their homeland. An average of 1,300 hungry and exhausted Somalis are arriving daily at the complex, which was already holding more than four times the number of refugees it was designed for.

The UNHCR airlift, starting with a Boeing 747 flight carrying 100 tonnes of tents from our stockpiles in Kuwait, is expected to deliver its first load to Nairobi on Sunday. It will be followed by at least six subsequent flights over the next two weeks from UNHCRs stocks in Islamabad, Pakistan, carrying an additional 600 tonnes of tents in total. The aid supplies will replenish reduced or depleted stocks in Kenya.

As of Wednesday, the total refugee population in and around Dadaab was 380,000 including 59,000 new arrivals living on the outskirts of the three camps. The Dadaab complex was built in 1991 to hold 90,000 and was officially declared full in 2008. Today it is the largest, most congested and one the most remote refugee camps in the world. Up to five families are sharing plots designed for one family.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kenya: Emmanuel Nyabera on mobile +254 733 99 59 75
  • Ron Redmond on mobile +254 734 564 019
  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher, on mobile +25 19 11 20 89 01
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20



UNHCR country pages


Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden


In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.


Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to ServePlay video

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to Serve

War forced Lim Bol Thong to flee South Sudan, putting his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold. As a refugee in the Kule camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, he has found another way to serve. Just 21 years old, Lim started teaching chemistry at the school's primary school and last year was promoted to Vice Principal.
Return to SomaliaPlay video

Return to Somalia

Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.
Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee CampPlay video

Kenya: High Commissioner Visits Dadaab Refugee Camp

Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres completed a visit to Kenya and Somalia where he met with the Presidents of the two countries, as well as Somali refugees and returnees.