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Ethiopia: Somali refugees being moved to a new camp

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: Somali refugees being moved to a new camp

3 April 2009

We are starting today the relocation of Somali refugees from a transit centre in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, near the Ethiopian-Somali border, to the newly opened Bokolmanyo camp some 90 kms inside Ethiopia. The first convoy, consisting of 10 buses, is transporting 157 Somali refugees who fled the renewed fighting in central and southern Somalia over the past few months. They are part of a group of 5,000 Somalis who have recently been recognized as refugees by the Ethiopian government with the expert support of UNHCR.

In addition, some 5,000 Somalis are staying with the local community in Dolo Ado and waiting to be screened. They claim to have fled the fighting and general insecurity in Somalia, most of them leaving the country after withdrawal of Ethiopian troops last December.

In February, we reported the presence of an estimated 10,000 Somali asylum seekers in Dolo Ado, most of whom have been enjoying the hospitality of Ethiopians who are also ethnic Somalis. The opening of the new camp and subsequent extension of international protection and assistance might encourage thousands of others living with the community to apply for asylum.

The land at Bokolmanyo on which we constructed the new camp site north-west of Dolo Ado, has been provided by the local authorities. The new camp can accommodate up to 20,000 refugees and we and our partners are intensifying the work of expanding basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation services, a health center, relevant basic communal facilities and a children's center. Establishment of schools and other facilities and services is also planned.

After arriving at Bokolmanyo, the refugees will spend about three days in a reception area where they will be allocated plots of land and given building materials to construct their huts. Refugees will also be provided with food as well as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, family tents and mosquito nets.

The Somali Region of Ethiopia already hosts more than 33,000 Somali refugees in three camps - Kebribeyah, Sheder and Au-Barre. With the new arrivals, the total is expected to pass the 40,000 mark very soon.

At the peak of the Somali refugee crisis in the early 90s, the region hosted 628,000 refugees in eight camps. The overwhelming majority of those refugees returned to their homes between 1997 and 2005. However, by mid 2005, we had closed all camps but the Kebribeyah site. Unfortunately, due to renewed conflicts and general violence in southern and central parts of Somalia, two new camps had to be opened in Ethiopia in 2007 and 2008 to accommodate new refugees fleeing Somalia.