It’s unclear how many Somalis have been displaced by fighting over the past week or so or how many are trying to flee the country. The UN refugee agency is trying to find out.
Millicent Mutuli is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Nairobi, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about new reports of Somali refugees trying to reach Kenya.
“We have several unconfirmed reports of movement through Liboi and other movements through Kiunga. In the last two days, we’ve been informed that there are 200 Somalis at the transit center in Liboi. This morning we sent a team from Dadaab to Liboi to verify these reports and also to assess the situation of the new arrivals. But we have still not been given access to this group of refugees, who are at the border.
There is a team also from the Red Cross going down to Kiunga, which is the coastal town just on the border between Kenya and Somalia to verify the reports of a hundred people down there…. We have also received unconfirmed reports via NGOs in Somalia of some 4,000 Somalis who are in Dobli. Dobli is a town just over the border from Liboi. Now, we do not know who is stopping these people from crossing as we do not have access to Liboi or even Dobli,” she says.
Asked about being denied access to the area, Mutuli says, “So far, we have not received permission from the government to go to Liboi. We have a team in Liboi, but they have not allowed the team of UNHCR staff to leave the town and go towards the border where we have the reception center.”
Some observers say the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian forces are screening the refugees to try to find foreign fighters who had sided with the Islamic Courts.