Somalia conflict is fuelling refugee crisis, says Norwegian agency

By staff writers
January 13, 2007

Conflict in Somalia is fuelling fears of a new refugee crisis, according to Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), a development agency with considerable experience in the region.

NCA says that sporadic violence – including a recent United States bombing raid – continues to rock Mogadishu, the country’s capital.

A spokesperson said there have been violent demonstrations against the presence of the Ethiopian army, which entered the capital recently, overthrowing the government of the Union of Islamic Courts.

A number of people have been reported killed, including three children, in various violent incidents recently.

Fighting between rival clans and revenge killings have been reported in many parts of Somalia.

Clashes between militia groups are a daily occurrence in many parts of southern Somalia, according to Norwegian Church Aid and United Nations reports.

The reported American bombardment that took place in the south of the country earlier this week has created fears that civilians will flee the area, seeking refuge elsewhere, including across the border in Kenya.

There are also unconfirmed reports of Ethiopian troops moving into the areas of Garbaharrey and Burdhubu – NCA’s main operational areas in the Gedo region.

NCA says it is difficult to tell how many people have been displaced across the country by recent events. However, at least 5,000 people are reported to be stranded around the town of Dhobley on the Somali side of the Kenyan border.

The border remains closed but it is thought around 1,000 Somalis have crossed into Kenya in recent days. According to reports, those who remain on the Somalia side have no access to humanitarian assistance and no protection against harassment from Ethiopian troops and militias.

Mogadishu is said to be awash with refugees who are living in squalid conditions and their situation is reported to be critical.

[With acknowledgments to Christian Aid]

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