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More than 10,000 Somalis flee coastal city of Kismayo, fearing fighting

News Stories, 21 September 2012

© UNHCR/B.Bannon
Some of the Somalis leaving Kismayo are using donkey carts to transport their belongings.

NAIROBI, Kenya, September 21 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Friday it was closely following the situation around the Somali port city of Kismayo as thousands of residents fled in anticipation of new clashes.

"So far this month, more than 10,000 people have fled from Kismayo fearing the resumption of fighting. Movements substantially increased on Monday and have been continuing since. Some 7,500 people fled the area in the past four days amid growing tension," a UNHCR spokesman said.

Most of the internally displaced Somalis are leaving Kismayo and its surroundings on minibuses. Poorer households undertake the journey in lorries and trucks, in some cases using donkey carts.

The majority of those displaced are heading to villages in other parts of Kismayo district as well as villages in the neighbouring Jilib and Jamame districts. Some are also moving towards Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and the refugee camps in Dadaab, north-east Kenya.

"According to our partners on the ground, most of those fleeing Kismayo say that they are planning to return as soon as the situation stabilizes," the UNHCR spokesman said. There are reports of sporadic militia attacks and looting. The displaced also fear being caught in the crossfire and possible reprisal attacks by armed groups operating in the town.

Meanwhile in eastern Ethiopia, 200-300 Somalis continue to arrive at the Dollo Ado camps every week. They are mainly from the Gedo, Bakool and Bay regions. Most of the new arrivals cite insecurity, fighting and fear of forced recruitment in Somalia as the main reasons for leaving their homes.

After more than two decades of conflict and violence, Somalia remains one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, generating the largest number of refugees, second only to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today, more than a million Somalis live as refugees in the neighbouring countries. Another 1.3 million are internally displaced across Somalia.

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East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

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