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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
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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

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

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

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