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

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.


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

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