As Somalia reported to have been world’s second highest producer of refugees in 2012
By: Chrisitine Lgat
Somalilandsun – Young refugees from the great lakes region yearn for a return to their ancestral land where they were uprooted by ethnic strife
Somalilandsun– Farhiya Hussein’s radiant face mask the anguish and torment she has endured for the last two decades when eruption of civil war in Somaliland brutally separated her from next of kin and bosom friends.
The female refugee in her mid 20s is nevertheless unbowed in her quest to retrace her roots, connect with old ties and possibly forge enduring bonds.
A tumultuous life’s journey has only hardened Hussein’s resolve to search for a new beginning, whose emblem is hope, fortitude, grace and compassion.
“My narrative is both emotive and unbelievable. Having separated from my immediate family and childhood friends at the tender age of five when war broke in Somalia cannot be equated to an opera. It is both tragic and painful,” Hussein told Xinhua on Thursday during the World Refugee Day cerebration in Nairobi.
Hussein has vivid memories of what transpired in Somalia two decades ago when gun battles, bombs and missiles reigned supreme and hapless civilians in cities and hamlets either cowed in submission or fled for their safety never to return.
“I remember watching gun toting soldiers pass by our house in Mogadishu and occasionally, they knocked the door demanding the presence of my father. By this time, my father had already disappeared for fear of victimization since he belonged to the enemy camp,” Hussein said.
Her father was a government officer in the overthrown government of Siad Barre and warlords who took over were busy hunting for officials who served in the fallen leader’s regime.
Left at the care of her mother, aunts and the grandmother, Hussein and her two siblings never enjoyed the company of a father figure as most of her male relatives either died or disappeared during the civil war in Somalia.
Towards the late 1990s, Hussein’s mother had enough of watching bloodbath in the city of Mogadishu together with her young offspring and embarked on the perilous journey to a safer haven across the border.
“I cannot for sure remember how we managed to evade snipers or wild animals in the vast desert to enter the Kenyan side of the border. But my mother later told us how she camouflaged identity to pass through checkpoints erected by warlords and often times donkeys came in handy as a means of transport,” Hussein narrated to Xinhua.
Her new life as a refugee in Kenya began when she was an adolescent and together with a swelling number of displaced persons, Dadaab refugee camp became the new abode.
“I enrolled for upper primary school at Dadaab and have acquired the rest of my education in Kenya,” said Hussein.
An accomplished graduate, Hussein currently works at Refugee United, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reunite refugees with their families.
“Every refugee in this world deserves a second chance, and however long it might take, we all yearn for some day when we will enjoy the warm embrace of long-lost kinsmen and friends,” Hussein said.
She revealed that a desire to reconnect with her father who is holed up in Somalia capital lingers often.
“At least my mother and siblings are here in Kenya but it torments me whenever I remember my father. His safety is not even assured but when the moment beckons, I will fly to Mogadishu to look for him,” said Hussein.
She is not alone in the quest to reconnect with the homeland after years of sojourn in the vast jungle to the unknown.
Dozens of young refugees from the Horn of Africa and the great lakes region who spoke to Xinhua during the World Refugee Day shared the same desire to retrace their broken path and forge a new beginning.
“Am considered an alien here despite having the legal papers to guarantee my stay in Kenya as a refugee. When the rebirth process in my country reaches a fruitful end, there is no reason for me to stick around any longer,” said Abdullah Osman, a 27-year-old Somali refugee living in Nairobi.
Osman escaped from Somali three years ago at the height of Al- Shabaab attacks and currently live with the extended family in a Nairobi suburb.
He regretted that many refugees are treated like second class citizens in their host country and are often discriminated in employment and provision of basic services like health and education.
“Finding a stable job has been a nightmare not forgetting the many instances of hostile reception from the civilian population and authorities,” Osman told Xinhua.
Young refugees from the great lakes region yearn for a return to their ancestral land where they were uprooted by ethnic strife.
“There is no place like home, and this reality dawned on me several years ago when I settled in Kenya as a refugee. Yes it is true, my country, Democratic Republic of Congo has issues, but it is not a walk in the park here in Kenya for us refugees,” said Salva Munyona, a Congolese refugee and a mother of two.
Somalia produces world’s second highest refugees in 2012: UNHCR
NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Somalia generated the second largest number of refugees (1.14 million) of any country in the world in 2012, though the rate of refugee outflow slowed, the UN refugee agency said in a report published on Thursday.
The report which was launched ahead of the World Refugee Day on Thursday also reveals that Iraqis were the third largest refugee group (746,700 persons), followed by Syrians (471,400).
UNHCR’ s annual Global Trends in displacement report highlights that last year 7.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution, with a total of 45.2 million people around the world in situations of displacement, meaning that more people are refugees or internally displaced than at any point since 1994.
Reacting to the report, UNHCR Somalia Representative, Alessandra Morelli, said over one million people are still internally displaced (IDPs) in Somalia while another one million Somalis are refugees in neighbouring countries.
“For the first time in over 22 years, Somalia is showing tangible signs of a return to normality, characterised by an improvement in the political and security landscape,” Morelli said on Wednesday.
The report comes as Kenya has been lobbying the international community for support for speedy resettlement of Somali refugees residing in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab in northern Kenya and those living in other urban cities and towns.
Kenyan leaders have emphasized that it has no intention of interfering with the domestic affairs of Somalia saying his government’s only agenda is to support the establishment of administrative structures as well as institutions necessary for the stabilization and reconstruction of Somalia.
According to UNHCR, a total of 18,108 refugees have returned from the neighboring countries into Somalia since January.
Kenya, a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention, currently hosts some 630,000 refugees, of whom more than half a million are from neighbouring Somalia.
The report covers displacement that occurred during 2012 based on data from governments, NGO partners, and UNHCR itself.
The report shows that as of the end of 2012, more than 45.2 million people were in situations of displacement compared to 42.5 million at the end of 2011.
This includes 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers, and 28.8 million people forced to flee within the borders of their own countries.
According to the report, war remains the dominant cause with about 55 per cent of all refugees listed in UNHCR’s report come from just five war-affected countries of Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The report also charts major new displacement from Mali, in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and from Sudan into South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The UN refugee agency also highlights worrisome trends in several areas, one of which is the rate at which people are today being forced into situations of displacement.
During 2012 some 7.6 million people became newly displaced, 1.1 million of them as refugees and 6.5 million as internally displaced people. This translates to a new refugee or internally displaced person every 4.1 seconds.
“In this context, UNHCR and its partners will maximise these opportunities in the search for durable solutions for displaced Somalis. This is the time for UNHCR to stay at the centre of this change,” Morelli said.
Also evident is a continuing gap between richer and poorer countries when it comes to who is hosting refugees. In all, developing countries host 81 per cent of the world’s refugees compared to 70 per cent a decade ago.
According to the report, children below age 18 make up 46 percent of all refugees.