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Somalia: Flight to Kenya continuing

Briefing notes

Somalia: Flight to Kenya continuing

19 September 2006

Somali refugees continue to flee to Kenya. Yesterday (Monday), UNHCR transported 662 refugees who arrived over the weekend at the Kenyan border town of Liboi, to our camp at Dadaab.

On Friday, we received 442 people, up from about 300 a day earlier in the week. Since September 13, more than 3,400 Somalis have escaped growing tensions and fighting in their country and found refuge in neighbouring Kenya. Since the beginning of the year, more than 26,300 Somalis have sought refuge in Kenya. The refugees, who are mostly women and children, tell our teams that they are fleeing rising tensions and fighting between the Islamic Courts Union and warlords. They report walking from Mogadishu, Kismayo and Baioda, the headquarters of the Transitional Government. Some claim that they have been personally attacked by armed militia, while others say they fled because their neighbours were killed and they feared a similar fate. People crossing the border generally suffer from extreme fatigue and many children appear malnourished.

UNHCR fears that the numbers may further increase following militia fighting over the weekend in Dobley, a village 18 km from the Liboi border. Two refugees died on arrival in Kenya, and a wounded man was transported from Liboi health centre to Dadaab for treatment. We are also concerned that the attempt to assassinate the Somali transitional government president yesterday in Baidoa may cause additional displacement.

Meanwhile, UNHCR's Africa Bureau director, Ms. Marjon Kamara, is in northern Somalia today. During a meeting Saturday with refugee representatives in Kenya's Dadaab camp, Kamara expressed concern about the growing number of refugees there and she expressed hope that Somalia will find a way to reach a lasting peace so that the refugees can go home. She is scheduled to arrive today in Hargeisa, Somalia, for a two-day visit in Somaliland. Her visit will also include a trip to Bossaso, where she will meet internally displaced people and community leaders

In all, Kenya hosts more than 227,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia and Sudan.