UN Agency Worried About Insecurity At Somali Refugee Camps in Horn of Africa

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The United Nations refugee agency has said it is increasingly concerned about
insecurity in and around camps hosting hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees
in the Horn of Africa.

“The situation is particularly worrying, complex and tenuous in the Dadaab
refugee camps in northern Kenya where the threat of improvised explosive
devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry remains high,” Andrej
Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told
reporters in Geneva.

He added that, along with killings of police officers and kidnappings of aid
workers, the agency is also witnessing the targeting of refugees. Two refugee
leaders who had volunteered to help maintain peace and safety in the camps were
murdered at the turn of the year.

“These events and others, since late October, are harming life for the 460,000
people who make up the population of the largest refugee settlement in the
world,” said Mr. Mahecic.

“The ability of aid agencies to deliver services is being seriously curbed,” he
added. “Humanitarian workers are having to contend with restrictions on movement
from Dadaab town to the camps, and police escorts for such movements have become
essential.”

Despite these challenges, UNHCR says that basic services such as health, food,
water, sanitation, education and protection are being maintained thanks to
planning and the close cooperation of partners and the refugee communities in
Dadaab.

Meanwhile in Ethiopia, a security incident occurred near the Dollo Ado camps on
Wednesday, in which three armed men in civilian clothing attempted to stop a
vehicle belonging to an international non-governmental organization (NGO). The
vehicle, with four people on board, did not stop and the men opened fire. No one
was hurt, according to Mr. Mahecic.

“Although this was an isolated incident, aid agencies have restricted all but
essential activities and movements in all five Dollo Ado camps, which today host
some 140,000 people,” he stated.

More than 955,000 Somalis live as refugees in countries neighbouring Somalia –
primarily in Kenya (520,000), Yemen (203,000) and Ethiopia (186,000).

A third of them fled Somalia in the course of 2011 owing to conflict, drought
and famine. Another 1.3 million people are internally displaced within the Horn
of Africa nation.

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