Hundreds of Somali refugees are crossing the border in the Kenya each day. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), says the numbers have increased following reports of a planned advance on Kismayo by forces of the Islamic Courts Union.
Millicent Mutuli is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Nairobi, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the Somali refugees.
“We have in the last three days registered a significant increase in the number of Somali refugees coming in. This number is now at 300 to 350 a day. This is up from 100 people a day just one month ago,” she says.
The refugees are coming from several cities in Somalia. Mutuli says, “The majority are coming from Mogadishu, Kismayo, but we’re also beginning to see people from Baidoa. What is interesting is that those coming from Kismayo say that they have decided to leave because of rising tensions in the southern port city. They fear that there could be skirmishes between Islamic Courts Union and warlords that have been controlling Kismayo.”
Mutuli says the trek into Kenya is taking a toll on the refugees. “There are sick people amongst those who are coming in, but the majority of people are really very tired. We’re seeing women and children looking very emaciated. And this is because people have traveled long distance. They walk. They get rides on trucks when they can. I mean on the whole people are dehydrated, they’re tired.”
The refugees are being taken to a complex of UNHCR camps in Dadaab, nearly 100 kilometers from the border. The camps house 134,000 refugees, most of them Somalis.