Ethiopia/Somalia: Camaboker camp to close
UNHCR is set to close the Camaboker camp in eastern Ethiopia at the end of this month, completing the repatriation of nearly 18,000 Somali refugees from the camp to Somaliland, north - west Somalia. Camaboker, which opened in 1988, will be the sixth of eight refugee camps for Somali refugees to be closed in Ethiopia in the last three years.
With the completion of the Camaboker repatriation, UNHCR will have assisted the return home so far this year of nearly 30,000 Somalis from Ethiopia, almost halving the number we were assisting at the beginning of 2002. At the end of this phase of the return operation, there will be 37,363 Somali refugees left in Ethiopia.
One of the last convoys from Camaboker arrived in the town of Burao, east of the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, yesterday (Thursday, Oct. 24) - - several days after it left Camaboker on a 300 - km journey that should have taken only a day. More than 600 refugees on board the 35 - truck convoy spent three nights in the town of Daror when the vehicles got stuck in muddy road conditions. The journey between camps in eastern Ethiopia and Somaliland normally takes 7 to 10 hours.
Heavy rains continue to drench the area, making the departure schedule for the last two convoys uncertain. We'll wait for a break in the rains so the roads are passable, then try to complete this return operation before the end of next week. Nearly 4,000 refugees remain in Camaboker, which is to be closed after the last convoy. Repatriation from the eastern Ethiopia camp was started in May 2002.
UNHCR has already closed Hartisheik B, Darwanaji,Teferiber, Rabasso and Daror camps, all in eastern Ethiopia. We hope to move the repatriation programme to Hartisheik A camp next month. Hartisheik A has 11,714 refugees. Convoy schedules may, however, be affected by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to be observed during November and the upcoming elections in Somaliland.
Many of the refugees in camps in eastern Ethiopia have lived in exile for over a decade, having fled to Ethiopia during Somaliland's war of secession in 1988. Hundreds of thousands more fled following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in Somalia and the ensuing outbreak of civil war.