Somali refugees demand justice [Archives:2005/896/Front Page]

November 21 2005

Yasser Mohammed Al-Mayyasi
SANA'A – Nov. 20 – Hundreds of Somali refugees have been protesting for almost a week in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) premises with their families and children, they staged a sit-in and expressed their demands for improving their current legal, economic and social living condition as well as their forsaken human rights.

Yemen Times has met a number of them who expressed anger over the bad treatment they face from the Commission: Osman Ali, a refugee who came to Yemen in 1991 claimed that the commission had obtained a refugee card from the UNHCR, yet he did not receive any assistance from the commission since 1991, leaving him to face sever financial conditions, he said that the UNHCR did not live up to its charter or commitment in furnishing them.

Another refugee, Hassan Ainain Osman was among a committee representing refugees and have met the Commission's officials who in turn said that they can do nothing to help them because of large number of refugees reaching around 40.000. However, more recently he said that the officials of the UNHCR refuse to meet them to listen to their problems. He said that all they want is to be taken to other parts of the world where they may live a decent life: “We are homeless and lost everything, while living conditions in Yemen are worsening”, he went on saying. Several refugees said that they come with their women and children to make their voice heard. Some said that they used to come to the commission for consecutive months without being able even to see the face of an official except when they go in and out of their cars. They come early in the morning and they are told to wait until the after noon when they discover that all the officials left by the back doors, leaving the long cues under the sun and rains.

Several refugees have called the United Nations to listen to their humanitarian call and find a solution for them; they said that they will go into hunger strike to make themselves heard. They demanded equal consideration similar to other refugees such as the Ethiopians, whom they claim to have a better treatment. Yemen hosts a number of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq and Palestine, along with other small numbers of refugees from other countries.

Most of Somali refuges escaped their country because of the civil war, and faced a number of problems in the so called the trips to the unknown. These trips often end in tragedies especially those who use wooden boats in their escape. They are often being pushed over board by their smugglers, for fear of the coast guard patrols. When they reach land they got detained because they enter countries illegally.

In Yemen they do simple jobs that could hardly sustain a living; especially they have not got an educational standard that enables them to have better jobs. Yemen has recently received boats and sea equipments to support in the war against terrorism. These boats enabled the Yemenis to tighten their grip on their coasts, but the Somali refugees who suffered as a result of this; they are often being marooned along distance from shore for fear of these new Yemeni forces.

The large number of the Somali influx made many of them eye the efforts of the Commission with skepticism. They accuse the UNHCR of willful negligence, and a double standard treatment. The Commission's efforts in furnishing for the refugees can not be denied. These were either through the commission individual efforts or those joint ones with the government, by making refugee camps and encouraging voluntary return. Now there are several Somali refugee camps that are made for them in the south west governorates, which are near the coasts where the refugees infiltrate.