Jahin Director Speaks Out [Archives:1998/36/Law & Diplomacy]

September 7 1998

Mr. Ali Saeed Ali, director of the Jahin camp for refugees, is a Sudanese refugee himself. He has been working in the camp for two years.
Q: What are the major problems and difficulties experienced by the refugees and the administration of the Jahin camp?
A: The refugees are mostly in bad emotional and psychological states. To properly deal with them, one need a lot of patience, understanding and perseverance.
Q: How can the emotional problems be solved?
A: The only solution is to repatriate them to Somalia, when conditions there are peaceful and stable enough. The camp’s administration should be given larger powers to be able to fully utilize the available resources.
Unfortunately, some refugees misuse the available resources and facilities. Some of these people consider the camp’s resources as a given right, to be squandered at will.
Q: Why doesn’t the UNHCR help the refugees by giving them pocket money?
A: UNHCR relies on aid provided by other countries such as Sweden, Norway, Canada and Italy. This aid usually just about covers the refugees’ basic needs. So the use of resources must be rationalized. Giving them money may make them unwilling to go back home or wish to develop their vocational skills.
When some refugees are given money to help them settle back at home, they tend to spend it in Yemen and remain in this country.
Q: Why doesn’t UNHCR organize some recreational activities to help alleviate the refugees’ psychological problems?
A: There are many such services, but not enough. Due to objections raised by some religious groups, we asked the refugees to tone down some of their song and dance activities. However, they can still organize some low-key folklore celebrations.
Q: What other problems are there in the Jahin camp?
A: There is no electricity supply at the camp, which makes the refugees unable to watch TV or listen to music, for example, to help them wind down.
The camp is also some distant from the sea or any green area, a factor that exacerbates the refugees’ emotional problems. I would like to see these refugees returned to the Cod camp, which would enable them to fish, farm, etc.
Q: Any last comment?
A: Media coverage of the refugees’ plight will help solve some of their problems. I call on all international organizations to help refugees graduating from secondary school – 25 this year – obtain university seats.
Women and children form about 35% of the camp’s population. There should be more health-care facilities for these people.