12 March 2010

Somalia: Safety of Uprooted Somalis Key Concern for UN Refugee Agency

The United Nations refugee agency today expressed its deep concern for the safety of more than 8,000 people trapped in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, by clashes which have uprooted more than 100,000 people since the start of the year.

Some 8,300 people who do not have the means to get out of the capital remain displaced in Mogadishu, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"As the fighting rages on, aid agencies cannot access and assist these extremely vulnerable IDPs [internally displaced persons]," agency spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

Characterizing the clashes in both the capital and other parts of the Horn of Africa nation as "relentless and indiscriminate," UNHCR said the situation for civilians continues to deteriorate.

The latest round of violence between Government forces and Al-Shabaab militia is concentrated in Mogadishu's northern suburbs.

Since last month, 33,000 people have escaped violence in the capital, with nearly half fleeing to the Afgooye corridor, a stretch of road 30 kilometres from Mogadishu, joining nearly 366,000 other IDPs who are sheltering there.

Neighbouring Kenya has also witnessed an influx of refugees, with 10,000 new Somali refugees having been registered in the first nine weeks of 2010 alone.

Mr. Mahecic said that with violence persisting in Somalia, UNHCR fears that the Dabaab refugee complex in northern Kenya, already home to 270,000 refugees, could see a spike in arrivals.

Somalia, the agency said, continues to be among the countries generating the highest number of displaced people and refugees, with over 1.4 million IDPs and more than 560,000 refugees.

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