UNHCR concerned about fresh violence in Somalia

News Stories, 4 October 2011

© UNHCR/B.Bannon
Somali refugees queue at a reception centre in Kenya. UNHCR is concerned about fresh violence in Somalia.

GENEVA, October 4 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday it is "very concerned" by the latest escalation of violence in southern Somalia. The renewed clashes between opposing armed groups are further exacerbating the already severe humanitarian situation.

"We urge all armed groups and forces in Somalia to avoid targeting civilian areas and to ensure that civilians are not being placed in harm's way," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

"We have received initial, unconfirmed reports of deaths and scores of injured people. We are especially worried about the fighting and worsening situation around the town of Dobley, near the Somali-Kenyan border. Dobley is the main transit point for Somalis en route to Dadaab refugee camps," added Edwards.

He spoke as news reports from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said a truck bomb had exploded near a government ministry and killed at least 65 people. It was the largest attack since the Al Shabaab militia withdrew its forces from the city in August.

Edwards said UNHCR was particularly worried about the well-being and safety of displaced Somalis who are likely to get caught in fighting while fleeing through the Dobley area. "Our partners in tracking the movements of populations inside Somalia report that some 65 families make the journey from Dobley to Liboi in Kenya each day en route to Dadaab [refugee complex in Kenya]," he said.

"Many also use alternate routes through Diif and Degelema on the Somali side and Dhadag Bulla in Kenya. On average, 1,000 new Somali refugees continue to arrive in Dadaab camps every day. These camps are now home to more than 456,000 refugees," the spokesman added.

Although UNHCR has yet to ascertain the number of people fleeing from Dobley, the refugee agency estimates the new displacement to be significant. In addition to having its own local population, Dobley was also a temporary shelter for many internally displaced people from other parts of southern Somalia and farmers displaced from areas around Dobley.

Relentless fighting, human rights abuses, crippling drought and famine have forced more than 300,000 Somalis to leave their country since the beginning of the year. Two thirds of this number fled over the past four months alone. Many died inside Somalia. Others perished either en route to safety or upon reaching the camps weakened by hunger, the gruelling journey on foot, and disease.

Before the latest episode of violence, several aid agencies were providing assistance in Dobley.

Meanwhile, there are dozens of new Somali arrivals at the Kenyan border town of Liboi, where they are awaiting transport to the Dadaab refugee camps some 80 kilometres away. Due to heightened tensions and insecurity in the border area humanitarian agencies have not been traveling to Liboi for several days now. "We hope the convoys transporting weak and exhausted Somali refugees from the border to Dadaab camps will resume as soon as possible," Edwards said.




UNHCR country pages

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

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

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