There are 1.1 million Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa region as of Dec. 31, 2012, a UN refugee agency said on Saturday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa region included 532,660 in Kenya, 219,057 in Yemen, 214,167 in Ethiopia, and 29,603 in Uganda among other countries, the UNHCR said in its latest Somalia Factsheet released in Nairobi on Saturday.
The agency said a total of 23,086 Somalis or 21 percent of total migrants who arrived in Yemen in 2012 were Somali, a significant 15 percent decrease in migration from the previous year.
According to UNHCR, there were 107,698 individuals registered in Kakuma refugee camp as at the end of December 2012, representing a 4 percent increase in population from the previous month.
A local newspaper report attributed the increase in population to the registration of 3,000 refugee arrivals to the camp from Sudan in November and December of 2012.
“The refugees cited growing insecurity in Sudan as well as interest in educational opportunities in the camp as the reason behind their migration,” UNHCR said in the latest report.
The Kenyan government in mid December of 2012 stopped registration of refugees and asylum seekers mainly from Somalia in urban areas with immediate effect due to insecurity incidents across the country.
Acting Commissioner for Refugee Affairs Badu Saro Katelo also ordered officials to close down all registration centers in the urban areas, saying such exercise will be undertaken at the refugee camps in northern Kenya.
Katelo said all asylum seekers/refugees will be registered and hosted at the refugee camps. They are ordered to report to Dadaab refugee camps in northeast Kenya while asylum seekers from other countries should report to Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya.
The east African nation is also hosting nearly half a million refugees from Somalia and has delayed their repatriation until the security situation in the country improves further.
According to UNHCR, the Somali community now comprises 46.5 percent of the Kakuma camp population in northwest Kenya. South Sudanese comprise 31.8 percent of the total camp population.
The UN refugee agency said the current total population has surpassed the camp’s original capacity of 100,000 and there are on- going talks between UNHCR and the government to establish a second camp near the original camp.
The UNHCR said due to the increased generalized insecurity towards members of the Somali community in Kenya, there are reports of the return of Somali refugees and migrants living in Kenya to Somalia.
“Most of the returns are of urban refugees who can afford to return by air as many of the roads are still unsafe for travel in Somalia,” the refugee agency said.
Given the rising insecurity for urban and other refugees in Kenya, there has been increased repatriation of refugees to Mogadishu,. Flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu were and continue to be fully booked since December.
“Refugees are seeking and getting travel documents from the Somali Embassy in Kenya; however there has not been any effective monitoring of the returns and the scale of return is still unknown, ” it said.
Returnees interviewed by International Organization for Migration (IOM) cited the growing insecurity in Kenya as a reason for return.
According to UNHCR, the population of Dadaab refugee camp as of Dec. 31, 2012 was 449,815, a 4 percent decrease in population compared to the previous month when the population was 468,770.
“The difference in numbers of refugees who have left is quite significant at close to 18,955 refugees,” the UN refugee agency said.