July 31, 2010 ·36 Comments
GENEVA (Somalilandpress) — The United Nations refugee agency today called on Saudi Arabia to halt deportations of Somali refugees and asylum-seekers to the conflict-stricken capital, Mogadishu, where dozens of civilians were killed in escalating clashes this week.
In June alone, more than 1,000 Somalis were reported from Saudi Arabia, according to local reports from Mogadishu, said Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UHNCR).
So far this month, nearly 1,000 more Somalis are already estimated to have been forcibly returned.
Monitoring reports indicate that most deportees say they fled Somalia due to conflict, indiscriminate violence and human rights abuses, with most coming from southern and central Somalia, which includes Mogadishu.
A majority of those being sent back from Saudi Arabia are women, including a young woman who was detained on her way to a market and deported to Mogadishu with her two infants.
“UNCHR consider such deportations to be incompatible with UNHCR’s guidelines on international protection needs of Somali refugees and asylum-seekers,” Ms. Fleming said.
“Given the deadly violence in Mogadishu, UNHCR is urging the Saudi authorities to refrain from future deportations on humanitarian grounds.”
The spokesperson said that the agency is in contact with Saudi officials about introducing a joint screening procedure before deportation decisions are taken, characterizing this as “an encouraging measure.”
UNHCR has consistently called on governments to provide protection to Somali civilians fleeing violence and grave human rights abuses in their country.
“It is our view that involuntary returns to central and southern Somalia under today’s security and humanitarian circumstances in the country place people at risk,” Ms. Fleming stressed.
Fighting between Government forces and the Al-Shabaab militia in Mogadishu has claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, wounding scores more this week. The violence has also driven many more from their homes.
UNHCR today deplored the continuation of indiscriminate fighting in the Horn of Africa country, which has often targeted civilians and homes in heavily-populated parts of the capital.
More than 300,000 of the 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), out of a total population of nearly 8 million, are sheltering in Mogadishu. Most of the uprooted live in poor conditions on makeshift sites in southern and central Somalia.
This week’s events, UNHCR said, highlight the importance of assessing asylum claims from people coming from the area in the broadest possible way.
“Where refugee status is not granted, UNHCR is advising governments to extend complementary forms of international protection, which would allow Somalis legal residence until conditions improve for safe return,” Ms. Fleming stated.
Somali refugees are being harassed and rounded up in Kenya and the semi-autonomous enclave of Puntland in the wake of deadly bombings by al Shabaab Islamist rebels in Uganda, the United Nations said on Friday.
Authorities in Puntland sent back more than 900 displaced Somalis to the conflict zone in central Somalia this week, but so far Kenya has not deported Somalis who can prove they have refugee status, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.
“Against the backdrop of recent terrorist attacks, we have noted growing numbers of incidents of xenophobia, round ups and deportations of displaced Somalis,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR spokeswoman, told a news briefing in Geneva.
“We are calling on the Puntland authorities to halt these push-backs,” she added.
People fleeing fighting in southern and central Somalia need international protection and forced returns to that part of the country place their lives at “grave risk”, according to UNHCR.
“We fear those who have fled for very good reason, young men in the age group between 18 and 25, are very often targeted for recruitment by al Shabaab,” Fleming said.
Al Shabaab, a hardline Islamist rebel group with links to al Qaeda, controls much of southern Somalia, bordering northeastern Kenya, and is fighting to topple the Western-backed government in the Horn of Africa nation.
Coordinated bomb attacks on the Ugandan capital Kampala this month were the first claimed by Somali rebels outside Somalia, although there have been fears for some time in Kenya that the violence could spill over their long and porous border.
“We are receiving frequent reports of verbal and physical harassment in (Somali) communities as well as arrests, arbitrary detention, extortion and even push-backs of Somali refugees,” Fleming said, referring to the situation in the region.
In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, nearly 2,000 Somalis have approached UNHCR offices in the past week to register as refugees, she said.
“So there is this clear desire by Somalis to make sure they have the right documents so they can prove they have refugee status,” she said. “All indications are that once they can prove they are refugees, they are being released (in Kenya).”
Report released by UNHCR Agency
Published | July 3oth, 2010Follow @somalilandpress