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May 12, 10

NEWS / UN seeks funds to alleviate plight of Somali refugees

12 May 2010 – In the face of a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, the United Nations refugee agency is calling for stepped up funding to help those displaced both inside and outside Somalia.

This year alone, escalating violence has driven some 200,000 Somalis from their homes. As it becomes more dangerous and difficult to flee across the borders, most are sheltering within the country’s borders.

The two supplementary appeals totaling $60 million launched by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today bring the agency’s total budget for 2010 for Somalia and its four neighbouring countries – Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti – to nearly $425 million.

To date, the agency has received just over one third of its global comprehensive needs budget.

The additional funds called for today will be earmarked for addressing ever-increasing needs both in Somalia and nearby countries, as well as to expand the Ifo camp in Dabaab, Kenya.

Originally designed for 90,000 people, the three camps in Dabaab – which UNHCR said is one of the world’s oldest, largest and most congested refugee sites – are now home to nearly 300,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia.

Thousands are continuing to arrive in Dabaab monthly, with Kenya receiving 21,000 people in the first found months of 2010.

The funds from today’s appeal will also help to open two new camps for Somali refugees in Yemen and in Djibouti.

“The displacement crisis is worsening with the deterioration of the situation inside Somalia and we need to prepare fast for new and possibly large-scale displacement,” said Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff, who recently wrapped up a visit to the region.

“We need to be ready,” he stressed, underscoring the need to enhance efforts to provide protection and to improve the living conditions of refugees who have fled violence and human rights violations.

Mr. Aleinikoff also highlighted the importance of being prepared for the possibility of continued instability in Somalia and the population displacement that could result.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to be plagued by fighting between Government forces and its supporters and Islamist rebels, as well as by drought, poverty, food insecurity and heavy flooding.

It remains the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 575,000 refugees and nearly 3 million people dependent on aid, out of a total population of nearly 8 million.

In 2009, 120,000 Somalis fled their country, mostly to Kenya, and so far, nearly 40,000 have sought asylum in the region and further afield so far this year.

Yesterday, UNHCR issued new guidelines to ensure that the protection needs of Somalis are dealt with consistently.

The guidelines also encourage nations to assess applications for refugee status for people from the war-torn country in the broadest way and to extend other forms of international protection when refugee status is not granted.

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters yesterday in Geneva that the agency believes that asylum-seekers from central and southern Somalia are in need of international protection.

Those who do not meet the criteria to be granted refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1969 Refugee Convention of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), she said, should still be protected, as applicable in situations of generalized violence or armed conflict.

“In view of the nature of the conflict and the dramatic humanitarian situation, UNHCR does not believe that Somalia refugees can find an internal relocation alternative in central of southern Somalia,” Ms. Fleming stressed.

Further, she said, there is no possibility for Somalis not originally from the self-declared autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland to take shelter there.




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