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12,000 Kenyans Flee to Uganda


The U.N. refugee agency reports some 12,000 Kenyan refugees have fled post-election violence in their country into Uganda. It says it is making preparations to care and house these people. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The U.N. refugee agency says an emergency team has been sent to Tororo, in southeastern Uganda along the border with Kenya. It says new arrivals are being registered.

Aid workers report most refugees are from the Mt. Elgon and Eldoret areas in Kenya's Rift Valley. They say local communities are giving them shelter.

But local communities are running out of money, so the UNHCR says it is looking into relocating new Kenyan refugees to Mulanda transit center.

U.N. refugee spokesman, Ron Redmond says some Kenyan refugees are concerned over the ethnic composition of refugees already at Mulanda and are reluctant to relocate there.

"My assumption would be that this is just an indication of the fear that people feel who have fled some of this violence in Kenya. They are expressing concern about who is going to be in the camp with them," he said. "But, there have been no problems to date and I think it is a matter of UNHCR to sit down with these people and briefing them and assuring them they will be safe in these camps."

An estimated 300,000 Kenyans fled their homes following the country's disputed presidential election at the end of December and are internally displaced.

Redmond says the UNHCR does not anticipate significant numbers of new arrivals in Uganda. But, he says the possibility of a new influx of refugees cannot be ruled out if the Kenya situation continues to deteriorate.

He also says growing numbers of Somali asylum seekers and migrants are fleeing to Djibouti in what may become a new migration route from war-ravaged Somalia to the Middle East.

He says more than 550 asylum-seekers and migrants from unstable south and central Somalia have gone to Djibouti this year.

"Many of them are saying that they had transited through some of the areas where UNHCR and its partners operate camps for the internally displaced. But, they say the situation is so difficult, they are not getting enough assistance and help so they keep moving," said Redmond. "So, now they are transiting into Djibouti. There also are the usual smugglers around who are offering to take them to various places including making the voyage across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen."

Redmond says those crossing the border are mainly young single people. He says some hope to continue to Yemen. He says it is crucial to dissuade them as many people have lost their lives making the dangerous crossing in the Gulf of Aden.

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