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Ethiopia: Somali refugees to be relocated away from border

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: Somali refugees to be relocated away from border

13 July 2007

In Ethiopia today (Friday), UNHCR teams are expected to start relocating a group of 500 newly-recognized Somali refugees who fled from renewed conflict in strife-torn south and central Somalia over the last year. They have been staying around the Kebribeyah area, near the Somali border in eastern Ethiopia and are being relocated to a re-opened UNHCR camp at Teferi Ber.

The refugees are part of a group of 4,000 Somali refugees who have recently been granted refugee status by UNHCR and the government's Authority for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA). An estimated 7,000 additional Somalis who also claim to have fled fighting and insecurity in Somalia, are waiting to be screened at other sites in eastern Ethiopia.

The new camp site at Teferi Ber, some 120 km north of Kebribeyah, was formerly a UNHCR camp which in the 1990s hosted some 49,000 mainly Somalis refugees who had fled fighting in their country. The camp was officially closed in 2001 after all the refugees returned, mainly to the self -declared republic of Somaliland.

After arriving at Teferi Ber, the refugees will spend three days in a reception centre where they will be allocated plots of land to construct homes and given building materials. They will also be given food as well as tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, jerry cans, kerosene stoves, and soap. The ARRA has established a temporary health centre until permanent structures can be built.

The Somali Region of Ethiopia already hosts more than 16,500 refugees. With the new arrivals, the total is 20,300. At the peak of the Somali refugee crisis in the early 90s, the region hosted 628,000 refugees in eight camps. The overwhelming majority went home between 1997 and 2005, and all of the camps were closed except a camp at Kebribeyah.