Thousands of newly arrived Somali refugees in Ethiopia relocated to new settlement
GENEVA – The relocation of newly arrived refugees in the Somali region of Ethiopia, who fled clashes in Somalia’s Lascanood city, has begun, with 1,036 of the most vulnerable people transferred from border areas to a new settlement over the past three days.
Transportation to the new site, located some 50 kilometres from the border in Mirqaan, Bokh district, is being organized by Ethiopia’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners. Upon arrival, refugee families are biometrically registered and provided with a tent and other essential relief items to set up a new home.
The Government of Ethiopia has generously allocated 400 hectares where refugees can settle and access existing services, such as health care, water and education. UNHCR continues to engage with local authorities and leaders to assess gaps in basic services so support benefits both refugees and Ethiopians. The site is being developed with the help of volunteers from the local community. UNHCR is also increasing its staff in the area.
Since clashes started in mid-February, thousands of people have arrived in the Somali region of Ethiopia seeking safety. As of last week, 91,000 people had been registered by RRS with UNHCR’s support. Refugees continue to arrive, fleeing ongoing violence in their home country.
Most are women, children and older people. Among them are more than 3,400 unaccompanied and separated children and adolescents. They told UNHCR harrowing stories of how they became separated when clashes began and have since been unable to re-establish contact with their families or guardians.
While many refugees are being hosted by Ethiopian families in their homes, others who crossed into Ethiopia remain in overcrowded shelters or are sleeping outdoors and require urgent assistance. The establishment of the Mirqaan site will respond to these ever-increasing needs and facilitate the provision of assistance – including shelter, core relief items, food and water – to those without ties to the community.
Existing services in the nearby town will be strengthened to serve both refugees and host communities. Those who wish to remain within host communities will be supported through targeted assistance.
Last month, UNHCR and humanitarian partners launched an inter-agency emergency refugee response plan of $116 million to address the immediate critical needs faced by refugees and host communities in this area. UNHCR continues to call on the international community to support the Ethiopian government, UNHCR and other organizations to deliver life-saving aid and basic services.
Ethiopia has welcomed refugees for decades and currently hosts nearly 990,000 refugees from neighbouring countries like South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan.
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