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July 18, 2012

Somali Refugee Population Exceeds One Million

by Kim Lewis

The Somali refugee population is reported to have reached a sad milestone - more than one million people have now fled Somalia, according to the latest data from the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

The agency cites insecurity and dwindling food resources as the main factors contributing to the most recent arrivals of Somali refugees to surrounding areas in the horn of Africa.

“While we have seen different trends emerging over the last year, the exodus of people being displaced from Somalia into neighboring countries has continued.  Sadly, it’s a figure that is now over one million Somali refugees in the region,” said Andy Needham, UNHCR Somalia spokesperson, who recently returned from Mogadishu to his Nairobi office. 

"When you go beyond the immediate region and include Egypt, which has a caseload of about 7,000 Somali refugees, the figure is up to 1,012,000 Somali refugees displaced," he added.

No doubt the increasing number of refugees and displaced persons continues to put pressure on refugee camps where the UNHCR is operating, such as the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya.

The camp is now housing over 570,000 refugees, and the agency said while displacement is not at the same level it was last year during the famine, it is continuing.

“Our colleagues in Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia have said in recent weeks, 1,200 people a week are crossing the border and seeking assistance,” said Needham.

The agency said it is also seeing migration to other countries such as Yemen and Djibouti.

“Also, with the Ramadan period upcoming, we know this is also a period of mixed migration where people, including Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans, are off  to seeking a better way of life by crossing the Gulf of Aden, often in very dangerous conditions,” said Needham.

Needham said that in addition to today’s landmark of exceeding one million Somali refugees, we can expect to see increased migrations by sea out of Somalia.