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Kenya to Establish New Refugee Camp for Somalis

The UN refugee agency says the Kenyan government has agreed to allocate land to accommodate the increasing numbers of Somali refugees who are fleeing to Kenya to escape the escalating conflict in their country. In the meantime, the UNHCR says Somalis also are fleeing to Ethiopia.

The deal with the Kenyan government was concluded by Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Craig Johnstone. UN refugee spokesman, Ron Redmond, says Johnstone has just returned to Geneva from a three-day visit to Kenya, where he successfully carried out his mission.

"In a meeting with the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, Mr. Johnstone received a firm commitment that the government would provide land for establishment of a new refugee camp and that should help take the pressure off of the sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex. It was designed for 90-thousand people and now has a population of a quarter of a million. And, that makes it one of the world's largest and most congested refugee sites. Johnstone warned that the camp was already at breaking point."

Redmond says the UNHCR and local Kenyan authorities have already identified and surveyed two thousand hectares of land south of Dadaab. He says the site will be able to shelter about 50,000 people.

Meanwhile, Redmond says the UNHCR and other aid agencies are sending staff and essential relief supplies to the border area of Dolo-Ado, in the Somali Region of southeast Ethiopia. He says another group of some 10-thousand Somalis have fled there and are in need of help.

"These 10,000 new asylum seekers have fled insecurity in neighboring Somalia since the beginning of the year. We have also dispatched trucks and staff from Addis Ababa. These are carrying a variety of relief supplies also WFP, WHO, UNICEF are taking part in this effort to get assistance to this remote area."

Redmond says the large refugee influx follows the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia. He says the UNHCR has obtained a formal authorization from local authorities to establish a camp around Dolo-Ado to accommodate the new arrivals.

He says a UNHCR team also has identified structures for use as offices and as a compound.