Somali refugees flood Kenya fearing renewed fighting

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Hundreds of Somali refugees have been flocking into Kenya amid reports of an advance on the Somali port of Kismayo by Islamic Courts Union fighters, according to aid agency officials.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR office in Nairobi said an average of 300 Somalis had arrived daily at the Doble border crossing in the past three days, and more were still coming.
The agency said in a statement it was sending a team to investigate reports that refugees were also entering Kenya further south through the Amuma border crossing.
"The rise in the number of Somalis escaping to Kenya, up from about 100 a day a month ago, has us worried that an outbreak of violence in Kismayo could trigger even more outflows," chief UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, told reporters in Geneva.
He said Kenya had already received 22,000 Somali refugees since the beginning of this year.
The majority of the refugees told UNHCR officials they were from Mogadishu and Kismayo, while a few were from Baidoa, the temporary seat of the Somali interim government.
Those coming from Kismayo said they fled the port city because of rising tensions and fear of possible skirmishes between the Islamic Courts Union and warlords controlling the city.
Those from Mogadishu and Baidoa said they feared renewed clashes in those areas, while "others said they were leaving the Mogadishu area to avoid recruitment by warlords or the Islamic Courts Union," UNHCR said.
Most of the refugees arriving in Kenya are women and children.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR said it was sending trucks daily to Liboi to collect the new arrivals for transfer to Dadaab, where there are three camps hosting some 134,000 mainly Somali refugees.
"We are in the process of erecting tents to provide temporary shelter for new arrivals.
We are at the same time trying to source building materials locally in Dadaab and Liboi," an official of the UN agency said.
Medical teams are also present at the border to carry out rapid screening of the new arrivals and to provide medical assistance where needed.
Kenya hosts some 227,400 refugees, mainly from Somalia and Sudan.

19 september 2006 17:34:00

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