Sixth camp in Ethiopia set to close as Somali refugees go home
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, October 25 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is set to close its sixth camp in Ethiopia next week as Somali refugees continue streaming back to Somaliland in north-west Somalia amid heavy rains.
Camaboker camp in eastern Ethiopia is scheduled for closure at the end of October when UNHCR completes the repatriation of nearly 18,000 Somali refugees there. Some 14,000 of them have already gone home since the voluntary return programme started in May. Nearly 4,000 more are waiting to follow on two final convoys, but they may be delayed due to bad weather in the region.
On Thursday, a 35-truck convoy from Camaboker arrived in Burao town, east of the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, after a three-day journey. The 300-km drive usually takes seven to 10 hours, but was prolonged when the trucks got stuck in muddy road conditions. More than 600 refugees on board had to spend three nights in the Ethiopian town of Daror before continuing homewards.
Heavy rains continue to pound the area, rendering some roads impassable. The departure schedule for the last two convoys is now uncertain, but UNHCR still hopes to complete this return operation before the end of October.
Upon completing the repatriation from Camaboker, UNHCR would have facilitated the return of nearly 30,000 Somali refugees from Ethiopia, close to half the number of Somali refugees assisted by the agency at the beginning of the year. At the end of this phase of the return operation, there will be 37,363 Somali refugees left in Ethiopia.
Camaboker will be the sixth of eight refugee camps for Somali refugees to be closed in Ethiopia. The UN refugee agency has already closed Hartisheik B, Darwanaji, Teferiber, Rabasso and Daror camps, all in eastern Ethiopia.
In November, UNHCR hopes to move the repatriation programme to Hartisheik A camp, which hosts 11,714 refugees. However, convoy schedules may be affected by the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan to be observed in November and the upcoming elections in Somaliland.
Many of the Somali refugees in eastern Ethiopia's camps 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.