PRETORIA, South Africa
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Tuesday called on Mozambique’s neighbors to provide access to territory and asylum to those escaping violence in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province.
“UNHCR teams in Pemba have received worrying reports from displaced populations that over 1,000 people fleeing Mozambique and trying to enter Tanzania were not allowed to cross the border to seek asylum,” the refugee agency said in a statement, adding that it is following up on the reports from neighboring Tanzania.
Northern Mozambique has faced attacks from militants for the past three years, killing hundreds, displacing communities, and capturing towns.
According to the UNHCR, the conflict has displaced nearly 700,000 people inside Mozambique – most during the last year.
UNHCR officials have warned that this number could cross the million mark by June this year if the ongoing violence does not stop.
Last month, an armed militant group believed to be affiliated with the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group attacked the coastal town of Palma in Cabo Delgado province near the border with Tanzania, killing dozens and injuring scores of others.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said the recent attack by insurgents in Palma has forced out at least 11,000 people, with thousands more reported to be trapped inside the area.
Baloch said civilians have been arriving in the neighboring towns of Pemba, Nangade, Mueda and Montepuez by foot and boat since March 24, in the aftermath of the attack.
“Humanitarian flights that helped evacuate hundreds initially have now been suspended pending further clearance by authorities,” he said.
The UN agency said a majority of the new arrivals are women and children with few belongings, most showing signs of severe trauma following the atrocities they witnessed and worried for those relatives who were left behind.
“The sudden and deadly nature of the attacks has left families torn apart, many still unable to leave.”
The UNHCR said among the vulnerable groups arriving in Pemba were unaccompanied children, separated families, and older people.