More than 10,000 Somali refugees have arrived in the Kenyan border town of Mandera in the past two weeks, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said today.
The refugees, who are from the Somali border town of Bula Hawa, told a UNHCR team visiting the area yesterday 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 week-long UNHCR mission was told.
The Government of Kenya, which has maintained an open border policy that allows fleeing families into the country during the day, recommends that no camp be established in the area due to security concerns. They claim that any form of refugee site could encourage a migration of the fighting across the border, and have recommended against the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Mandera for the same reason.
Most of the refugees have sought shelter with relatives and friends. 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.
The agency and the 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.