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UN: About 14,000 new Somali refugees entered Kenya in Jan.
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09:44, March 19, 2009

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The United Nations agencies said more than 14,000 new Somali refugees have been registered in Kenya in January, adding to a refugee population which already far exceeds the capacity of existing camps and support mechanisms.

A statement from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday that Kenya's porous borders have witnessed continuous refugee flows from the Horn of Africa nation.

The statement said the crisis in neighbouring Somalia precipitated increased movements of Somalis over the border into Kenya, with more than 60,000 Somalis crossing the border into Kenya in 2008 alone.

"New arrivals are expected to continue during the course of the year. Therefore, there is an immediate need to decongest existing camps and accommodate arrivals in new camps with adequate infrastructure," said OCHA, citing figures from the UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF.

"Equally important is the provision of assistance to cater for the chronically unmet requirements of these populations and -- in the interest of conflict-prevention -- the local host community has to be catered for as well."

Last year alone, some 100,000 Somalis sought refuge in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. The number of Somali refugees in asylum countries now stands at 438,000.

There have been several encouraging developments over the past month for Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991, including the election of the new President in what the UN has hailed as "a fair and open manner" and the creation of an enlarged Parliament.


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