More than 10,000 Somali refugees arrive in Kenya
NAIROBI - More than 10,000 Somali refugees have arrived in the Kenyan border town of Mandera in the past two weeks. A week-long UNHCR mission to the town reported yesterday that the flow of new arrivals has decreased significantly this week, with only a few dozen refugees crossing in the past few days.
The refugees, who are from the Somali border town of Bula Hawa, told UNHCR that they were fleeing inter-factional fighting. They said that armed clashes seemed to be over the control of the road to Mogadishu. The road between Bula Hawa and Luuq has been closed and landmines reportedly laid along roads leading into Bula Hawa, cutting communication with other centres.
The refugees have sought shelter with relatives and friends in Mandera. Some are arriving with their belongings on donkey carts or local matatus (minibuses) while others are walking across the border carrying their few personal effects on their heads. Individuals have been seen dashing back to collect more goods during moments of relative clam in Bula Hawa, though UNHCR staff this week regularly heard gunfire in the distance. The Government of Kenya has maintained an open border policy, allowing fleeing families into the country during the day.
The Kenyan local authorities have recommended that no camp be established in the area due to security concerns. The authorities claim that any form of refugee site could encourage a migration of the fighting across the border. The authorities have recommended against the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Mandera for the same reason.
UNHCR staff warn that local hospitality in the area may soon be exhausted as the influx has overwhelmed the town of around 20,000 inhabitants. The new arrivals are in good health but will soon need additional assistance in the form of food, water, and sanitation facilities.
UNHCR and Kenyan Government are dispatching a joint mission next week to determine mechanisms for the delivery of assistance to new arrivals.
Neighbouring countries still host around 400,000 Somali refugees who fled their country in the early 1990s. Kenya presently hosts 208,000 refugees, of which 130,000 are from Southern Somalia and are mainly in the Dadaab refugee camps.