The UN refugee agency reports a dramatic increase this week in the number of Somali refugees entering Kenya.
Since Wednesday, about a thousand refugees a day have been crossing the border – as the Islamic Courts Union militias continue their advance in the Juba Valley.
Emanuel Nyabera is a spokesman for the UNHCR. From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the rise in Somali refugees.
“In the last two days, we have witnessed 2069 Somali refugees coming in through Laboi and Amuma border crossing points. The dramatic change also is that for a long time we’ve been receiving refugees mainly from Laboi. But now, we have more and more coming in through Amuma…and this has forced us now to be sending convoys to both Laboi and Amuma. Initially we were only sending them to Laboi,” he says.
He describes Amuma as a flat area with no trees where refugees are exposed to harsh conditions. So the UNHCR may open a registration center there soon.
Regarding the sharp increase in refugees, Nyabera says, “It’s definitely a very big challenge because initially we were handling around 100 per day. But now, in the past two days, it has moved to around 1,000 per day. We are having serious problems with the movement of people, especially with the trucks. We also have logistical constraints when it comes to moving the people.”
The refugees are being taken to Dadaab, where there are three UNHCR camps. Dadaab is about 80 kilometers from the border. Most of the refugees are women and children. Now, however, more elderly people are being seen, as well as Kismayo business people, who say they have lost their livelihoods with the arrival of the ICU.
What’s more, the refugees now include Somali Bantus, who have their origins in Malawi and Tanzania.