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Somali Refugees

According to the U.N., there are more displaced persons now than there were after World War II. Somalia is one country suffering from a refugee crisis. It is a country of 10.8 million people, but as the country continues to experience political and economic instability, its people are fleeing to find life outside of Somalia.

With 1.1 million Somali refugees, the country has become the largest refugee-producing country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Here are 10 facts about Somali refugees:

  1. The Somali refugee situation has lasted three decades. In 1991, Somalia’s President Siad Barre was overthrown, which led to an era of conflict that has never been resolved. When the state collapsed, Somalia became known as a “failed state,” one that became the empire of pirates, kidnappers and Al-Qaeda bombers.
  2. Between 1990 and 2015, the share of Somali migrants living abroad grew 136 percent. In 1990, the total number of people born in Somalia but living outside the country was 850,000. By 2015, that number more than doubled to two million.
  3. In April 2016, Somalia’s government reported that between 200 and 300 Somalis drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to illegally cross into Europe. Somali Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir said that a boat may have been carrying about 500 people, but “there is no clear number since they are not traveling legally.”
  4. Refugee camps are meant to be temporary, but most Somali refugees have lived in camps located in neighboring countries for decades. Families live in cramped quarters under tents meant for temporary residence.
  5. Two-thirds of the Somali migrants live in neighboring countries. Kenya hosts the largest number, nearly half a million, of Somali migrants of any other country. Ethiopia hosts the second largest number, 440,000, while Djibouti and Yemen fall close behind.
  6. Kenya is closing Dadaab camp, its largest refugee camp, which is home to 350,000 Somalis. The camp has become recruiting grounds for al-Shabaab terrorists, who have carried out several attacks in Kenya; however, Somalian Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said the refugees are being unfairly blamed for terror incidents.
  7. The U.S. is home to about 7 percent of the world’s Somali migrant population. In 1990, the total number of migrants living in the U.S. was around 2,500, but the number had grown to 150,000 by 2015. Between 2001 and 2015, the U.S. admitted more than 90,00 refugees from Somalia. In 2014, the U.S. approved 1,645 green cards for Somalis.
  8. In 2013, a tripartite agreement was signed between UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia to help Somali refugees voluntarily return home. Since 2014, only 14,000 have returned and another 8,000 are on a waiting list to do so.
  9. Kenya identified nine areas in Somalia to resettle Somali refugees. Kenya Interior Ministry Representative said that this is the time for Somali refugees to safely return home. The U.S. has asked Kenya to ensure the return is voluntary and humane.
  10. The U.N. is providing returnees with transportation, basic household items and three months of food rations, which the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi hopes to increase to 12-month supplies. Grandi said, “We don’t want to help people go back and then they become internally displaced.”

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: All Africa