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Kenya to set aside land to establish a new refugee camp for Somalis

News Stories, 6 February 2009

© UNHCR/E.Hockstein
Makeshift shelters and new tents at Ifo Camp in Dadaab late last year. The camp has almost reached saturation level.

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 6 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Friday that the Kenyan government has agreed to allocate land to accommodate the increasing numbers of Somali refugees who are fleeing to north-eastern Kenya to escape the escalating conflict in their country.

The commitment came during a three-day visit to Kenya by Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Craig Johnstone, who arrived back in Geneva on Friday. In a meeting earlier this week with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Johnstone received a firm commitment that the government would provide land for establishment of a new refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya to take the pressure off the sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex.

Dadaab, which was designed for 90,000 people, now has a population of about a quarter of a million, making it one of the world's largest and most congested refugee sites. Johnstone warned that the camp was now at breaking point.

UNHCR and local Kenyan authorities have identified and surveyed 2,000 hectares of land in Fafi, in Garissa District, south of Dadaab. The agency estimates the site could host 50,000 people. Johnstone pledged that the new camp will be an environmental model, which will carefully balance the demands of the refugees and the locals.

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Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Somalia/Ethiopia

In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.

Somalia/Ethiopia

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

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