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Thousands of Somalis return to Mogadishu despite renewed fighting

Briefing notes

Thousands of Somalis return to Mogadishu despite renewed fighting

27 February 2009

Over 40,000 internally displaced persons have returned to Mogadishu in the last six weeks. The majority of the returnees are from Hiraan, Mudug, Galgaduud, Lower and Middle Shabelle in the southern and central regions, which are experiencing a combination of renewed conflict and severe drought.

Many IDPs are returning as complete families but others are heads of households who have left their relatives behind in the settlements for internally displaced while they check the conditions of their properties. They are returning to Hodan, Wardhiigleey, Yaaqshiid and Heliwaa neighbourhoods in north Mogadishu that were devastated by two years of war and left virtually empty. The displaced have lost everything and are returning to ruined homes and livelihoods.

The latest returns are taking place at time when Mogadishu is experiencing some of the heaviest fighting in recent months, resulting in many civilian causalities and renewed displacement. We are in the process of assessing the scale and magnitude of the latest displacement.

UNHCR is not encouraging returns to Mogadishu at this juncture, as the security situation is volatile and the conditions are certainly not conducive. Access to basic services in Mogadishu is limited, with very few international agencies present on the ground because of insecurity. Nevertheless, we are preparing to help returnees or those who wish to return in the near future, in the hope that the security situation will improve.

The total number of Somalis displaced within their own country is a staggering 1.3 million. Last year alone, some 100,000 Somalis sought refuge in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. The number of Somali refugees in asylum countries now stands at 438,000.