Somali refugees arrived in Kenya seeking safety
Since last Friday more than 2,000 Somali refugees have arrived in neighbouring Kenya seeking safety as Somalia's interim government and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) fought for control of Buur Hakaba, a strategic town between Mogadishu and Baidoa. Yesterday (Monday), more than 1,300 desperate refugees jammed temporary reception centres set up by UNHCR on Kenya's border with Somalia.
Emergency operations to screen and transfer newly-arriving refugees from vulnerable border areas to three existing camps in Dadaab were disrupted briefly early Saturday when Kenyan police manning the temporary reception centre at Liboi stopped refugees from entering the reception facility. UNHCR immediately contacted provincial authorities at their headquarters in Garissa, in north-eastern Kenya, to express our concerns. By yesterday, the situation had returned to normal and we were able to resume activities at the reception centre. Yesterday, UNHCR met high-level Kenyan government officials in Nairobi and were assured this was an isolated incident and did not represent a shift in government policy on asylum.
In another development yesterday, the Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Somalia and other senior UN staff working in Somalia held a meeting in Liboi in Kenya with elders from Dobley, a Somali town which lies across the border from Liboi. The elders told the visiting delegation that fear of conflict due to increased military activity in Somalia's middle Juba region, combined with hunger following crop failure in many parts of the Juba Valley, was driving Somalis to refugee camps in Kenya. The elders said the current influx would not end soon and confirmed that they were aware of at least 3,000 to 4,000 Somalis en route to the Kenya-Somalia border via Dobley.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 30,000 Somali refugees have sought asylum in Kenya bringing the total number of refugees hosted in the three Dadaab camps to 157,000.