Thousands of Somalis still fleeing to Kenya, reports UN agency

27 March 2009

Despite recent elections and the establishment of new government in their homeland, thousands of Somalis are continuing to flee to north-eastern Kenya, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

Despite recent elections and the establishment of new government in their homeland, thousands of Somalis are continuing to flee to north-eastern Kenya, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

More than 20,000 Somalis have been registered in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps since the start of 2009. Several of the new arrivals told UNHCR that they left due to rising insecurity, coupled with drought and food shortages.

“Many also express little optimism for the return of peace to their country in the near term,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. “Despite the recent elections held in Djibouti which saw a new Government come to power, many parts of Somalia are still insecure.”

Somalia, which has been beset by factional strife since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, has witnessed a number of positive developments in recent months, including the creation of an expanded Parliament, the election of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and the formation of the Unity Government.

At the same time, the UN estimates that over 3 million people, a third or more of the total population, will remain dependent on humanitarian assistance this year.

According to UNHCR, more than half of the new arrivals to Dadaab are women and children, some having travelled as much as 800 kilometres over 16 days by foot to reach the camps.

Mr. Redmond said UNHCR is continuing to receive new arrivals at Kenya’s sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex. Designed nearly two decades ago to accommodate a total of 90,000 people, the complex currently houses over 261,000. There are concerns that the upcoming rainy season, set to begin in early April, could put additional constraints on the already congested camps.

The agency and the Kenyan Government are finalizing plans for the construction of new camps to ease the burden on the Dadaab site. “It is crucial for the Government to provide us with land as soon as possible, where we can build other camps and thus decongest the existing camps and prepare for more people if the current arrival trend continues,” Mr. Redmond stated.

 

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