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UNHCR appeals to Eritrea over refugee camp closure (03.07.2019)

Umkulu camp, located some 10 kilometres from the Red Sea port town of Massawa, is Eritrea’s only refugee camp.

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 3, 2019 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing to Eritrea not to close the Umkulu refugee camp after hundreds of refugees left the site in recent weeks, amidst reports that local authorities had asked residents to leave.

Umkulu camp, located some 10 kilometres from the Red Sea port town of Massawa, is Eritrea’s only refugee camp. As of mid-June, the camp hosted more than 2,100 Somali refugees. Of these, 1,300 people have now arrived in northern Ethiopia.

“We call on the Eritrean authorities to continue to work with us on securing protection and solutions for refugees who remain in the country,” said Raouf Mazou, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa.

“Closing a camp which has hosted Somali refugees for close to twenty years without offering alternatives raises serious concerns,” UNHCR’s Mazou added.

UNHCR is coordinating with the Ethiopian authorities to relocate the 1,300 refugees who arrived in Ethiopia away from the border and to transfer them to Melkadida in the Southern part of the country. The first relocations are expected to start on Wednesday, 3 July 2019.

Ethiopia is host to some 257,000 Somali refugees.

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