from ADANE BIKILA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, (CAJ News) – THE relocation of thousands of Somalis that fled to neighbouring Ethiopia recently has begun.
They fled clashes in Somalia’s Laascaanood city.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started the process with 1 036 of the most vulnerable people, who have transferred from border areas to a new settlement over the past three days.
Transportation to the new site, located some 50 kilometres from the border in Mirqaan, Bokh district, is being organized by Ethiopia’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) with UNHCR and partners.
Upon arrival, refugee families are biometrically registered and provided with a tent and other essential relief items to set up a new home.
The government of Ethiopia has allocated 400 hectares where refugees can settle and access existing services, such as health care, water and education.
UNHCR spokesperson, Olga Sarrado, said the agency continued to engage with local authorities and leaders to assess gaps in basic services so support benefits both refugees and Ethiopians.
UNHCR is also increasing its staff in the area.
Since clashes started in mid-February, thousands of people have arrived in the Somali region of Ethiopia seeking safety.
As of last week, 91 000 people had registered.
“Refugees continue to arrive, fleeing ongoing violence in their home country,” Sarrado said.
The official said Most are women, children and older people.
Among them are more than 3 400 unaccompanied and separated children and adolescents.
“They told UNHCR harrowing stories of how they became separated when clashes began and have since been unable to re-establish contact with their families or guardians,” said Sarrado.
Ethiopia currently hosts nearly 990 000 refugees from neighbouring countries like Eritrea, South Sudan, Somalia and Sudan.
– CAJ News