Unable to support themselves, thousands of Somalis flee their homes

News Stories, 26 June 2012

© UNHCR/J.Brouwer
A young Somali refugee at a reception centre in Dadaab, Kenya.

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 26 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that growing numbers of displaced Somalis have been citing difficulty in providing for themselves as the main reason for fleeing their homes.

Most of the hundreds of thousands of displaced Somalis have fled to escape insecurity, including 146,000 so far this year. But UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said that in recent weeks "we have seen an increase in IDPs [internally displaced people] and refugees also citing difficulty in providing for themselves."

In the past seven weeks, UNHCR has registered some 6,000 Somalis who have cited such difficulties arising from meagre seasonal rains and resulting food insecurity. The majority are from Somalia's Bay, Lower Juba and Bakool regions.

For 2012 to date, UNHCR has recorded 13,000 such displacements. However, in May alone, the refugee agency registered 4,400.

In Lower Juba region, people are moving to the towns of Diif, Qoqani, Tabta and Dobley in search of water and pasture. They have settled in areas around Dobley and Diif, close to the border. Many are now integrated with host communities, while others have settled on the outskirts of the towns. There are similar displacements in and around the Dollow, Gedo region bordering Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, as of this week, there are more than 157,000 Somali refugees in the five camps and transit centre at Dollo Ado. Since the beginning of June, Somali refugees have continued to arrive in increasing numbers, with an average of almost 1,200 new arrivals every week.

These refugees consistently cite growing physical and food insecurity as their reasons for flight, including fear of forced recruitment by the Al Shabaab militia group.

"Many new arrivals are coming with all of their belongings, including donkey carts and whatever livestock they still possess. Many say that other family members and neighbours in Somalia intend to follow," Edwards said. UNHCR and Ethiopian authorities have agreed to extend the capacity of the Buramino camp to above 25,000, while finalizing site selection for a sixth camp.

There are also reports that the regular commercial traffic carrying food and other commodities from the Somali port town of Kismayo to Afmadow, Lower Juba Region and Dobley has been hampered by roadblocks since late last week.

"We note with concern that the continuation of such paralysis would have negative consequences for already vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities in the region and will likely increase local commodity prices," Edwards said.

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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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