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Joint Un Team To Visit Ethiopia

Joint Un Team To Visit Ethiopia

The United Nations refugee agency will lead a joint inter-agency assessment mission on Sunday to remote areas of eastern Ethiopia after recent reports that Somalis have crossed the border, fleeing their strife-torn country following the Union of Islamic Courts taking control of the capital Mogadishu last month.

The mission is tasked with determining how many people have crossed over, their immediate needs, as well as planning for adequate reception arrangements for any future new arrivals, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (<"http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/news/opendoc.htm?tbl=NEWS&id=44ca0ded14">UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva, while stressing that no figures are available.

In Kenya, some 18,000 Somalis have crossed the border since January, saying they were fleeing severe drought and the uncertain security situation in the Mogadishu area. The rate of inflow of refugees has increased recently, she added.

The World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) are planning to take part in the mission along with officials from the Ethiopian Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs – the government body responsible for refugee issues and UNHCR's main partner in Ethiopia.

There are currently 99,000 refugees in Ethiopia, mainly from Sudan, with 16,000 from Somalia in Kebribeyah camp, near Jijiga, in the north-eastern part of Ethiopia, Ms. Pagonis said.

At its peak in the early 1990s, there were 628,000 Somali refugees in eight camps in eastern Ethiopia but since 1997, when UNHCR began repatriating refugees to north-western Somalia, also known as the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, most of the camps have been consolidated and finally closed.

In Kenya, there are over 250,000 refugees, including some 160,000 registered Somalis.

Earlier today, the senior United Nations envoy to Somalia appealed for calm in the African country after gunmen assassinated the Minister for Constitutional and Federal Affairs outside a mosque, and announced he will attend an urgent regional meeting called to discuss the worsening situation.

Ends

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