Ethiopia opens new camp for Somali refugees

Briefing Notes, 2 December 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahečić to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 2 December 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Hundreds of Somali refugees in southern Ethiopia's Dollo Ado region have been relocated from an overcrowded transit centre to a new camp, Bur Amino.

The camp was opened on Wednesday and became the fifth one in the Dollo Ado region. The first group of some 400 refugees has been moved by bus from the transit centre to Bur Amino, 26 kilometres away. On arrival, the visibly relieved refugees underwent health and nutrition screening before being shown to their tents and given hot meals.

The relocation to Bur Amino will decongest the transit centre. For weeks, 7,500 recent arrivals from Somalia had been living in the centre, built to host one-third of that population for a few days only. Rain and poor shelter conditions exacerbated the already low nutritional and health status of the refugees there, especially the children.

UNHCR and Ethiopian authorities are continuing with the gradual relocation, moving 500 refugees every four days as parts of Bur Amino camp are still being developed. Construction has been delayed primarily because the site's rocky soil hampered the building of sanitation facilities.

Refugees at Bur Amino will benefit from food distribution, supplementary feeding for malnourished children, water, health and sanitation facilities.

Since the beginning of the year, Ethiopia has received more than 98,000 Somali refugees fleeing conflict and drought in their homeland, adding to an existing refugee population of some 41,000 in older camps. Another 163,000 Somalis have arrived in Kenya, and over 4,800 in Djibouti. In all, there are now more than 950,000 Somali refugees in the region.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher on mobile +251 911 208 901
  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Regional office): Vivian Tan on mobile +254 735 337 608,
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile: +41 79 200 76 17



UNHCR country pages

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.


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