Somalia: With UN Assistance, 5,087 Refugees Return Home

674 views | Akanimo Sampson | December 14, 2019

Since 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have so far helped 5,087 Somali refugees return home from Yemen.

In this latest departure, a boat carrying 145 refugees left the Port of Aden on Friday, and will arrive at the Port of Berbera. The voluntary returns are part of UNHCR’s Assisted Spontaneous Return (ASR) programme to which IOM is a partner.

UNHCR manages a Return Help Desk (RHD) as part of ASR in Aden, Al Mukalla city in Hadramaut governorate and Kharaz in Lahj governorate. Somali refugees can visit the RHD to receive counselling on ASR and get registered. UNHCR, in collaboration with IOM, supports Somali refugees who wish to return home with documentation, transportation and cash assistance to facilitate the journey.

IOM provides operational support to refugee return movements through chartering a boat, providing medical support upon arrival and transportation assistance to the refugees’ final destinations.

UNHCR Deputy Representative in Yemen, Martin Manteaw, said “the ongoing conflict in Yemen has made it difficult for many refugees to cover basic needs for their families and to sustain themselves given the limited work opportunities and economic hardships.”

“Some refugees are now opting to return home and it is important for UNHCR to continue to help those voluntarily wishing to go home to do so in dignity and safety” Manteaw added.

Yemen hosts the world’s second largest Somali refugee population, around 250,000 refugees. It is a long-standing refugee host nation and the only country in the Arabian Peninsula which is signatory to the Refugee Convention and its protocol.

But, after more than four years of conflict in Yemen – the situation for civilians, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants has deteriorated. More than 24 million people need assistance in the world’s largest humanitarian crises.

IOM Yemen Chief of Mission, Christa Rottensteiner, said “for refugees who have made the choice to return from Yemen, it is important that they can travel home safely and that reintegration into their communities of origin is facilitated.”

Thirty-nine organised departures have now taken place from Yemen to Somalia since the ASR programme commenced two years ago. The programme is facilitated by UNHCR in partnership with IOM, and in cooperation with humanitarian partners and authorities in Yemen and Somalia.

Amongst those who departed today was 20-year-old Naima who is hoping to go back to school in Somalia. She had to stop her education 10 years ago when her father got sick. Naima was left helping her mother around the house and working in the family business.

“I hope to be able to go back to school, complete my education, study medicine, and one day become a doctor”, said Naima.

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