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Refugees Stranded Off Kenyan Coast Permitted to Land With PM-Somalia

July 28, 1992

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Nearly 300 Somalis stranded for nearly a week aboard a ship off Kenya’s coast were allowed to land and have been moved to a refugee camp, the United Nations reported today.

Panos Moumtzis, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the refugees came ashore Monday night and were taken to the Utange camp near the port of Mombasa.

Originally, U.N. officials had been told 351 people were aboard the Jamaican-registered ship, but only 287 disembarked. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

The Somalis were joined by 200 other refugees who arrived on a separate ship Monday and were immediately allowed ashore, Moumtzis said.

The landing ends the latest struggle by Somali boat people to enter neighboring countries already harboring tens of thousands of Somalis fleeing drought and civil war. At least 155 refugees died aboard ships off Yemen’s coast in June before Yemeni authorities relented and let the survivors ashore at Aden.

An estimated 156,000 Somalis have sought refuge in Kenya, and 50,000 have crossed the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million people are on the brink of starvation and an additional 4.5 million are hungry in this Horn of Africa nation of 8 million.

Tens of thousands - perhaps hundreds of thousands - have died in the chaos that has seized Somalia since President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted by the rebel United Somali Congress in January 1991.

On Monday, the United Nations authorized an urgent airlift of food, medicine and humanitarian supplies for Somalia and threatened military intervention if the country’s warring factions do not cooperate.

It was not known when the airlift would begin.

The 287 Somalis arrived offshore at Mombasa July 22, but Kenyan authorities said the Utange camp was too crowded and wouldn’t let the refugees disembark.

They ordered the ship’s captain, Nisar Ahmad of Pakistan, to turn around and head north to the port town of Lamu, but Ahmad said he didn’t have enough fuel.

He said the refugees forced their way aboard the ship, which was carrying aluminum scrap, during fighting in the southern Somalia port of Kismayu on July 16.

Five refugees, including two women who had given birth on board, were taken to a hospital, Moumtzis said.