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Somalia: The "Benadir" refugee camp including location and ethnic backgrounds of camp dwellers

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 31 December 1999
Citation / Document Symbol SOM33457.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Somalia: The "Benadir" refugee camp including location and ethnic backgrounds of camp dwellers, 31 December 1999, SOM33457.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad7b64.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 1997, the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nairobi continued to operate the "Benadir" refugee camp also known as "Swaleh Nguru" in honour of  "a Kenyan philanthropist who came to the assistance of refugee Benadirs at the outset of the Somali civil war" (UNHCR 17 Mar. 1997). "The main groups …were initially Benadir, Ethiopian and Sudanese. In 1995, however, the closure of the Utange and Marafa camps resulted in an influx of Darod subclans and Somali minority groups." A few members of the Hawiye clans also resided at the camp (ibid.).

In May 1994, the "Swaleh Nguru" camp, located at the coastal region of Mombasa was one of the 13 refugee camps (Liboi, Ifo, Dagahaley, Hagadera, Kakuma, Ruiru, Utange, Marafa, Mombasa, Hatimy, Jomvu, Swaleh Nguru) in Kenya, and housed 4, 542 Somali refugees from the Benadir community (UNHCR Information Bulletin).

The Benadir are a Somali ethnic group from the Benadir region of Somalia: the southern coastal region including Mogadishu. Unlike most Somalis, who are nomadic, the Benadir have a long history as urbanized merchants and artisans. The Benadir exhibit strong clan allegiance, through intramarriage and self-governance. They are devout Sunni Moslems, and are well known for their peace-loving, non-violent ways. For all these reasons, the Benadirs consider themselves a different, elite, class from other Somalis; consequently, they have been the targets of jealousy and animosity for centuries…Because of their vulnerability, even among other Somali refugees, the U.N. established a separate Benadir refugee camp, Swaleh Nguru, in Kenya (Rasbridge, n.d).

In June 1994, the government of Kenya reportedly "began a refugee repatriation campaign when it asked the UNHCR to close down all camps at the coast Province from which the organization was assisting nearly 28000 refugees in Utange, Marafa, Swaleh Nguru, Hatimi and Jomvu." The UNHCR reportedly relocated a total of 7,394 refugees to Kakuma camp and 1483 to Dadaab (IPS 22 Sept. 1997).

With the likelihood that the Benadir "could never repatriate to Somalia without persecution, resettlement overseas became the only durable solution for the Benadir plight. Since Spring of 1996, about 3,000 Benadir refugees have been resettled in about 20 sites throughout the U.S." (Rasbridge n.d.).

In March 1997, the Kenyan authorities reportedly ordered the closure of three refugee camps following recurrent clashes between Kenyan villagers and the refugees during which a refugee campwas reportedly burnt down (AFP). At the time, the UNHCR began relocating 16,704 Somali refugees to Kakuma and Dadaab (ibid.).

According to IRIN News Briefs, the district commissioner of Mombasa, "ordered the closure of St. Ann's refugee camp in the Kenyan coastal city, giving 2,500 Somali refugees at the camp up to Friday, 6 August 1999, to vacate or be arrested," because the camp was reportedly illegal (4 Aug.1999).  "The only recognized refugee camps in Kenya were Dadaab in the northeast and Kakuma in the northwest, and all Mombasa camps had been ordered closed last year, with refugees relocating to the two approved camps" according to the district commissioner of Mombasa (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

Agence France Presse (AFP). 8 March 1997. "UNHCR Relocates Somali Refugees in Kenya." (NEXIS)

Inter Press Service (IPS). 22 September 1997. Ochieng Rapuro. "Africa-Refugee: Kenya Faces New Crisis." (NEXIS)

IRIN News Briefs. 4 August 1999. "Somalia: Kenya Orders Closure of "Illegal" Refugee Camp."

Rasbridge, Lance, A. n.d. "Refugees from Somalia."

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Ottawa. 17 March 1997. Correspondence.

____. Information Bulletin [Nairobi]. May 1994. "Refugees in Kenya."

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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