New clashes force thousands to flee into Mogadishu

Briefing Notes, 17 February 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 February 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Thousands of civilians have fled a new escalation of violence and conflict near the Afgooye corridor, just north-west of the Somali capital Mogadishu. The corridor, a forty kilometre stretch of road with sprawling settlements and makeshift camps, is home to almost 410,000 internally displaced Somalis a third of Somalia's internally displaced population. UNHCR fears for the safety of the displaced and we urge all armed groups and forces to make the protection of civilians a priority.

In the last two weeks, more than 7,200 Somalis have been forced to flee from Afgooye. More than 5,200 of these are people who have fled in the past three days following new clashes that erupted on Tuesday.

A majority of the newly displaced are people who have been displaced previously and were living in the Afgooye corridor to escape insecurity in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia. Most of them are now heading towards Mogadishu.

On Wednesday, UNHCR staff observed some 150 minibuses and donkey carts bringing displaced people into the capital through one of the entry points. Others were arriving on foot. Our teams saw newly displaced people settling into existing IDP settlements in Mogadishu while others moved towards recently-vacated districts in the capital or found shelter with family or friends.

Some IDPs made their way to Mogadishu with their belongings but not everybody. UNHCR, together with other agencies, will be urgently scaling up assistance to provide shelter, food and water.

Some 1.3 million people are internally displaced within Somalia. More than 968,000 Somalis live as refugees in countries neighboring Somalia primarily in Kenya (520,000), Yemen (203,000) and Ethiopia (186,000). Somalia remains one of the worst and most alarming humanitarian crises that UNHCR faces, generating the largest number of refugees and displaced in the world after Afghanistan and Iraq.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia office): Andy Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 76 17
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