The United Nations refugee agency, which is currently caring for thousands of Somalis who fled to Kenya to escape fighting between warlords and the Union of Islamic Courts, today warned that if violence intensifies, more will cross the border.
Some 100 Somali refugees are arriving every day at Dadaab in north-east Kenya “but UNHCR is concerned that the figure could rise much higher if hostilities in neighbouring Somalia escalate,” Jennifer Pagonis, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva.
“Many of those who have arrived in the past week said they had fled Mogadishu to escape fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts and a loose alliance of warlords, who controlled the Somali capital for years.” The Union took over the capital in June.
Since the beginning of the year, some 18,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Dadaab, where three refugee camps already hosted some 134,000 mainly Somali refugees. “If the current rate of arrival continues, we can expect another 12,000 refugees by the end of the year,” Ms. Pagonis said.
The refugees who arrive in the semi-arid region of Dadaab are generally in good health, but many are visibly exhausted from the long trek, according to UNHCR. One man, who fled Mogadishu after his two brothers were killed in a gun battle in the capital, said he had been on the road for more than three weeks, travelling mainly on foot.
Upon arrival in Dadaab, the refugees are received at a registration centre where UNHCR staff carry out a rapid screening exercise. They then receive basic household items such as blankets, jerry cans, mats and kitchen utensils, but Ms. Pagonis said the agency’s current stocks “are very limited.”
There are 227,400 refugees in Kenya, mainly from Somalia and Sudan.