Djibouti + 6 more

USCR Country Report Somalia: Statistics on refugees and other uprooted people, Jun 2001

Originally published
About 375,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Somalia lived in about two-dozen countries at the end of 2000: some 160,000 in Kenya, about 120,000 in Ethiopia, some 55,000 in Yemen, 20,000 in Djibouti, 4,000 in Egypt, 3,000 in Tanzania, about 3,000 in Libya, 1,000 in Eritrea, 1,000 in Uganda, and approximately 10,000 new Somali asylum seekers in various European countries.
An additional 20,000 Somalis lived in Yemen in refugee-like circumstances, but Yemen authorities did not officially recognize their refugee status.

An estimated 300,000 Somalis were internally displaced. Approximately 75,000 Somali refugees repatriated during the year, primarily to northern Somalia.

Pre-2000 Events

Civil war and factional fighting have besieged Somalia for the past decade, causing more than a half-million deaths from the violence and population displacement. Conditions were particularly severe during 1991-92, when war and massive population upheaval produced famine.

In 1992, during the worst turmoil, an estimated 800,000 Somalis were refugees in neighboring countries, and 2 million were internally displaced. Large numbers gradually returned to their home areas during 1992-98, amid continued violence and renewed population upheavals.

Political leaders in northern Somalia maintained their autonomy from the rest of the country. Leaders in the northwest, largely of the Issaq clan, continued to rule their territory of "Somaliland," formed in 1991. Leaders in the northeast, dominated by the Darod clan, maintained control of their territory of "Puntland," formed in 1998. While no foreign government officially recognized either autonomous region, both regions pursued modest reconstruction efforts and population reintegration.

As the decade closed, anarchy, armed conflict, and food insecurity persisted throughout southern Somalia. Weapon supplies that Somali warlords reportedly received from the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea during 1999 sustained rampant violence.

A New Government

During 2000, a new national government formed in Somalia for the first time in a decade.

A Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference convened in Djibouti in May, initiated by the Djibouti government and supported by a consortium of neighboring governments known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

During June and July, some 900 official Somali conferees, representing all major Somali clans, gathered to draft terms for a new central government. Leaders of the self-declared states of Somaliland, Puntland, and a myriad of factions boycotted the talks. In August, the conference concluded with the establishment of a Transitional National Assembly, comprised of 245 delegates, which in turn elected Abdiqasim Salad Hasan as the president of the new Federal Republic of Somalia.

The landmark reconciliation process concluded in October with the installation of President Salad's cabinet and the appointment of Ali Khalif Galaydh as prime minister. But some Somalis including some warlords and their militia, refused to recognize the new Mogadishu-based government.

Prospects for national unity remained highly uncertain as the year ended.

Violence in 2000

Security conditions varied enormously in different regions of Somalia during the year. While few incidents occurred in the north, violence and insecurity prevailed in parts of southern, eastern, and western Somalia.

Clan-related attacks and continued militia and factional rivalries resulted in hundreds of fatalities and casualties, mostly civilian. Mogadishu, the capital, and the southern port city of Merka continued to experience high levels of both criminal and political violence. Gunfights in Mogadishu, Merka, and other locations left hundreds dead.

Humanitarian agencies also continued to experience targeted attacks. Several relief agencies' compounds suffered grenade attacks during the year and subsequently suspended operations. Unknown combatants fired on two UN planes in the southern towns of Kismayo and Merka in March and June; no fatalities were reported. In July, two expatriate relief workers were kidnapped in Mogadishu and held hostage for eight weeks before being released unharmed. In September, gunmen in Merka attacked two UN officials conducting a security assessment.

The Somalia border with Kenya officially reopened in April after an eight-month closure caused by weapons smuggling into Kenya.

Uprooted Somalis

Factional conflict, drought, and floods displaced an estimated 20,000 people from their homes during the year, adding marginally to the nearly 700,000 Somalis uprooted in previous years. The continued instability impeded hopes of reintegration.

The total number of new and previously displaced Somalis remained uncertain because insecurity continued to hamper thorough assessments in some regions. Recurring violence in central and southern Somalia during 2000 pushed more than 4,000 Somalis into Kenya and other neighboring countries. Several thousand people fled into Mogadishu, further crowding the city with displaced families. About 230,000 displaced persons lived in some 200 Mogadishu-area camps and squatter settlements as the year ended.

Somalis affected by drought in the Bay and Bakool regions of southern Somalia continually migrated toward water sources and urban areas. Some 11,000 Somalis migrated in and out of the Gedo region of southwestern Somalia. Others headed north into Ethiopia, and toward Mogadishu, according to one report.

Thousands of Somalis remained internally displaced in relatively calm Somaliland and Puntland.

Humanitarian Conditions

A decade of civil war and massive population displacement has worsened living conditions in a country already impoverished and suffering annually from cycles of droughts and floods.

About 75 percent of Somalis remained undernourished in 2000 despite positive political developments, improved crop production in southern Somalia, and stable food supplies in central regions and in Somaliland and Puntland. The UN Secretary General reported that an estimated 750,000 Somalis were "highly vulnerable" to food shortages.

In October, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) rated Somalia as the "world's hungriest country." The FAO reported that Somalis lacked one-third of the daily food intake normally needed. UNICEF found that about 40 percent of Somalis were malnourished in rural areas and at sites for internally displaced populations.

A shattered national health system contributed to high levels of tuberculosis, malaria, and gastrointestinal and other endemic diseases, particularly among children and women. UN agencies appealed to donors for $124 million to fund humanitarian programs during the year, but had received only about half that amount by November.

The UN World Food Program provided more than 13,000 tons of food aid to 1 million Somalis during 2000. UNICEF and the World Health Organization coordinated vaccinations of an estimated 1.3 million children against polio, more than 500,000 youngsters against other preventable diseases, and provided access to clean water for 500,000 people.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states re-imposed a ban on Somali cattle during 2000 for fear of diseased herds. The renewed ban had a devastating economic impact on Somaliland, Puntland, and, to a lesser degree, on southern Somalia. WFP reported that the new cattle ban would have a "much worse" impact on the Somali economy than a similar ban in 1998-99 because Somalis lacked alternative markets and livestock already were in poor condition.

In November, the UN Development Program (UNDP) appealed for $20 million in donor support to assist "in tangible ways" Somalia's new national government, as well as Somaliland and Puntland.

Repatriation of Somali Refugees

An estimated 75,000 Somali refugees repatriated during 2000, primarily from Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya.

The precise number of returnees was uncertain, however. While some 45,000 Somali refugees formally repatriated with assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an unknown number were believed to have repatriated on their own without assistance. The number of such spontaneous repatriations might have been as high as 30,000.

UNHCR estimated that 95 percent of Somalis who returned during 2000 repatriated to Somaliland. Nearly 1,000 Somali refugees departed Kenya and returned to Somaliland and Puntland on UNHCR chartered-flights in February.

In Ethiopia, approximately 85,000 Somali refugees had registered with UNHCR by mid-year for eventual repatriation. Not all of them returned home during 2000, however. An estimated 10,000 Somali refugees living in the Aware camps in northern Ethiopia repatriated to northwest Somalia. Some 3,000 Somali refugees departed Ethiopia and returned to Somaliland, Puntland, and Mogadishu in UNHCR-organized convoys in November.

In Djibouti, UNHCR flew more than 1,000 Somali refugees home in November. The returnees went to their homes in Mogadishu and southern Somalia with an individual repatriation allowance equivalent to $80 from UNHCR. It is believed that 5,000 Somali refugees living in Djibouti voluntarily repatriated during 2000, most of them without assistance. Political tension between authorities of relatively peaceful Somaliland and Djibouti hindered the return of more refugees to northern Somalia.

Most returnees throughout 2000 received repatriation grants, food and non-food items, as well as transportation allowances to reach their homes from transit centers in northern Somalia. UNHCR and UNDP, recognizing the limited absorption capacities of many war-affected communities, provided urban planning support to local Somali authorities. The joint initiative endeavored to "minimize cross-border disparities between refugee, displaced, and host communities" in Somalia and Ethiopia.

UNHCR provided technical and financial support to a variety of reintegration projects in northern Somalia. In Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, UNHCR helped to rehabilitate the central market and supported micro-credit loans to stimulate income-generation in new returnee settlements. In Puntland, UNHCR helped construct two primary schools and repair six others. UNHCR also initiated a program to provide basic education to children, and to build the capacity of 15 local humanitarian organizations to promote children's education rights.

Copyright 2001, USCR