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.