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UNHCR issues warning over treatment of Somali refugees

UNHCR / E. Hockstein

UNHCR is alarmed by a deterioration in the treatment of uprooted Somali civilians both inside Somalia and in the surrounding region. Against the background of recent terrorist attacks, there have been growing numbers of incidents of xenophobia, round ups and deportations of displaced Somalis. 

This increasingly negative perception of uprooted Somalis gives cause for concern over the wider refugee protection environment in the region and the rest of Africa. UNHCR staff are receiving frequent reports of verbal and physical harassment in communities as well as arrests, arbitrary detention, extortion and even push-backs of Somali refugees.

This negativity is having a corrosive effect on the traditionally positive relations between the host communities and Somali refugees, many of whom have spent decades in exile. In a number of countries, more and more Somali refugees have been approaching UNHCR offices requesting registration or renewal of their refugee identity documents.

Of particular worry was the action in late July by the authorities of Somalia’s Puntland region in pushing back more than 900 internally displaced people (IDPs) to conflict-stricken central Somalia. We are calling on the Puntland authorities to halt these push-backs. It is UNHCR'S view that people fleeing southern and central Somalia are in need of international protection and that involuntary returns to that part of the country place people’s lives at risk.

Current conditions in Somalia are particularly dire. Indiscriminate fighting continues, with utter disregard for the safety and well being of the civilian population. With nearly half of the population dependent on humanitarian aid, Somalia is one of the world’s worst crises.

More than 1.4 million people are internally displaced in Somalia and over 600,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries. After Afghanistan and Iraq, Somalia is the third largest refugee-producing country in the world.