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Djibouti Now Major Stop For Somali Asylum Seekers

Djibouti now a major stop for Somali asylum seekers, says UN

5 February 2008 - Djibouti has become part of a new migration route for Somali asylum seekers headed for the Middle East, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reported today.

Last year, 700 Somali asylum seekers escaped to Djibouti, but this year already over 550 asylum seekers and migrants have traveled from self-declared autonomous Somaliland region, in Somalia's north-west, into Djibouti.

Border authorities recently told a joint UNHCR/Government team that there is a continuous flow of asylum seekers in Somaliland as they try to gain entry into Djibouti.

"Previously, some asylum seekers would make a treacherous journey around the hilly region separating Djibouti and Somaliland to avoid being stranded at the border for days," UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

The agency and the Government have requested that the asylum seekers - mainly young single people hoping to ultimately make it to Yemen - be allowed into Djibouti in accordance with that country's international obligations.

They are also considering creating a reception facility in close proximity to the border to receive and screen asylum seekers before transferring them to the Ali Addeh camp which currently houses 7,000 refugees.

Some of these refugees have said that they have lived in settlements for internally displaced persons (IDPs) but have received little assistance and have no ways to make a living, according to UNHCR.

Smugglers have been roaming Somaliland and offering to take asylum seekers and migrants by boat directly across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, or to northern Djibouti before crossing to Yemen, border authorities have cautioned.

UNHCR again urged greater efforts to protect those trying to make the dangerous trip across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Last year, of the nearly 3,000 people who arrived in Yemen, 1,400 people who attempted to cross the Gulf died or are missing.

ENDS

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