Kenya: Mandera Somalis to be moved to Dadaab
UNHCR staff in the north-eastern Kenyan town of Mandera are making preparations to move some 3,500 Somali refugees to Dadaab refugee camp, some 500 km to the south. The preparations follow a decision by Kenyan authorities not to allocate a site near Mandera for the temporary transfer of the refugees. The first transfer convoy of up to four buses to Dadaab is expected to depart this week.
UNHCR officials spent all day yesterday in meetings with local officials who maintained that refugees who did not wish to return home had to be moved to Dadaab. Authorities explained that they did not wish to see the establishment of a new refugee camp in the Mandera area.
Over the weekend, about half of the 10,000 Somali refugees who have been camped in and around Mandera returned home to Bula Hawa and surrounding villages following meetings with Somali clan elders who urged them to go back. Many of the remaining refugees are at a vulnerable location called Border Point 1, which is barely 500 metres from the insecure border. Last Wednesday, four refugees at this site were killed by stray gunfire from the town of Bula Hawa in an upsurge of fighting between rival sub-clans in the Somalia town, just across the border from Mandera. Seven others were injured by shrapnel. UNHCR remains concerned about the fluid security situation inside Somalia and is appealing to Somali clan elders and local Kenyan authorities not to pressure the refugees to return.
On Saturday, plans for food distribution at the site were disrupted as the sound of gunfire from across the border rocked the refugee encampment. A distribution of food to vulnerable groups is now scheduled for this morning as plans are finalised for the transfer of the group to Dadaab, which is already home to some 130,000 refugees mainly from Somalia.
Weeks of clan fighting in Somalia have sent two waves of refugees into north-eastern Kenya. A first wave of some 5,000 refugees entered Mandera nearly a month ago. A second influx sought safety at the beginning of May, bringing to some 10,000 the total number of Somali refugees who have crossed into the Mandera area.
Kenya is already host to some 250,000 refugees, about 140,000 of them from Somalia.