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Farming prospects prompt some refugees to head back to Somalia temporarily

Briefing Notes, 3 February 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 February 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Expectations of upcoming seasonal rains and improved farming prospects in parts of Somalia have prompted several thousand Somali refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya to temporarily return home. This comes as the UN has announced that famine conditions no longer prevail in Somalia and despite a doubling of conflict-related displacement within the country in recent months.

According to estimates from our operation in Somalia, some 7,000 refugees left Kenya and Ethiopia in January, mainly returning to the previously famine-affected Bay, Bakool, Gedo and Banadir regions. Some told us they were going back to Somalia to take advantage of upcoming seasonal rains to resume farming in their villages. They also say they left their women and children in the refugee camps but plan to rejoin them once the harvest is over, as they fear it is not safe to stay in Somalia.

UNHCR staff have been cautioning refugees who wish to return about risks they may face en route. Our staff in Somalia are also planning to distribute some emergency assistance to needy returnees in the border area towns of Dhobley, Bulo Barwaqo, Diif and a number of surrounding villages.

UNHCR maintains its position that any return to Somalia must be well-informed and voluntary, and that the country's situation is not yet conducive for organized repatriation. While famine and drought conditions have eased across Somalia, insecurity continues to cause displacement within the country. More than 49,000 Somalis were uprooted in December and January, half of them for security reasons. By our estimates the total number of internally displaced Somalis is 1.36 million.

Notwithstanding the recent returns some outflow from Somalia continues. More than 2,000 people arrived in southern Ethiopia's Dollo Ado camps in January. UNHCR has been moving the recent arrivals to the fifth and newest camp in Dollo Ado called Bur Amino.

Last week, UNHCR warned of several suspected polio cases in and around Bur Amino. After a two-week testing period, samples taken from the patients tested negative for polio. A routine polio immunization campaign for Somali State in Ethiopia is planned for next week. UNHCR, WHO, MSF and local health officials have been liaising intensively to prepare for the campaign, and to ensure coverage of both refugee and local communities. Training has been conducted and human and logistical resources have been assigned. The campaign will start as soon as vaccines are in place.

In all, more than 293,000 Somali refugees have fled conflict and famine into the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen since January last year.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia Ops): Andreas Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
  • In Nairobi, (UNHCR regional hub): Vivian Tan on mobile: +254 735 337 608
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617



Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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