Over the last weekend, the self-declared republic of Somaliland made a move that sent shock waves across the region, saying that it will not allow entry of Somali refugees who have fled from the violence in Yemen.
At the beginning of the conflict, Somaliland authorities permitted the entry of Somali refugees until last weekend when it announced the new decision to block them from entering. In stark contrast, refugees of other nationalities are allowed to seek for refuge in the region.
The separatists officials claim that their policies are aimed at ensuring security of the self-proclaimed state. But these are poor explanations as most of the refugees arriving at Berbera port are women, children and old people. Many have regarded this as a show of force by an administration that is desperately seeking for an international recognition for more than two decades.
However, the move is a clear violation on both Universal declaration of Human Rights and Refugees. Twenty-six of the Universal Declaration’s 30 Articles begin with the words “Everyone…” or “No one…” Everyone should enjoy all human rights. No one should be excluded. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Non-discrimination must prevail.
“Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,’’ it is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Somalis are renowned for their hospitality. Somalis are generally a pleasant people with a keen eye for generosity and are known to indulge in the pleasures of conviviality. Hospitalilty has been the subject of a countless number of poems and is peppered throughout the Somali literature in various forms.
Framing this refugees as terror suspects clearly indicates that its a sign of discrimination which feeds mistrust, resentment, violence, crime and insecurity and makes no sense. It has no beneficial aspects for society whatsoever.
Surprisingly, the move has failed to hit the international news headlines. Perhaps, the Federal government of Somalia and the several UN offices in Somalia have remained silent from it.
The vulnerability of Somalis within the Yemen conflict is exacerbated by the obstacles they face when attempting to flee the middle-eastern country. They have to rent a ship or boat which costs thousands of US dollars and takes at least 16 hours of sea journey to arrive Somalia shores.
On Thursday, a ship carrying about 50 Somali returnees and dozens of Yemeni nationals arrived in Berbera port. However, the breakaway region officials paved the way only for the Yemenis and Somalis who only hail from their regions and call them as ”Somalilanders” yet the other Somali returnees were forced to stay on the ship.
At one point, two officials had an argument on whether to deport back the Somali returnees or give them an entry.
One of the returnees said that it took them three days to arrive in Berbera and currently are lacking food & water they had used to survive throughout the perilous journey.
‘’Why are you torturing us in this way? Why are you isolating us? We are Somalis! You either allow us entry or send us back!’’ Chanted one of the women from the ship.
Another woman with her 11 Children threatened to commit suicide if they are not given entry.
‘’Please allow us entry and take a rest…. then we will find ourselves a place to go after.
‘’We will throw ourselves into the sea if you don’t want us! We are not afraid of death.’’
Somaliland officials have vowed that Non-Somaliland returnees who come to its regions will be deported.
Analysts have agreed that Somaliland authorities ‘’must take in these refugees for humanitarian reasons if they are not respecting the values of the Somali culture.’’
Sending back refugees to a war-zone is also another violation of human rights and refugees rights, which the international community have failed to address.
Reactions from the Somali community
Since revealing this decision, there have been negative reactions from the entire Somali people across the world, majority of them criticizing it via social networks.
— Fidow (@Iamfidow) May 29, 2015
— Abdulaziz (@AbdulBillowAli) May 29, 2015
Very Sad news if #Somaliland prevented mothers and children fled from killing to land frm their port, Where is the humanity & Muslimism ?
— Ahmed Vision (@ahmedvision1) May 29, 2015
— Fatuma (@Fatumaabdulahi) May 29, 2015
Abdullahi Hussein, a Somali who lives in London stresses that this kind of act clearly indicates ‘’hatred’’ and one that is far from the rich Somali cultural norms.
‘’Somali culture is one beauty, and this kind of actions shows how those [Somaliland] hate other Somalis. This women and children have nothing to do with politics. Why should you treat them like this yet they are not criminals?
While others have wondered how Women and small Children have been linked to ‘’insecurity’’.
‘’ They are saying the Somali women and Small children are terrorists, while this Yemenis whom they even don’t know their backgrounds are qualified refugees,’’ says Habiba, who lives in Canada.
This move indicates how Somaliland authorities are mixing up politics and refugees, which is like mixing manure and ice-cream. Earlier this year, talks between Somalia’s federal government and Somaliland officials failed to proceed in Turkey. Nevertheless, authorities in Somaliland should bear in mind that Somali refugees have fled the conflict in Yemen for the same reasons as other refugees and deserve the same humanitarian consideration provided to others and allow them to enter.
Residents and officials of the autonomous state of Puntland have shown great compassion towards the refugees and have made sacrifices to receive and aid them in Bossaso, the commercial hub of the region.
Since April, over 7000-plus returnees have managed to reach the town and hundreds of them have been sent back to their original homes.
In a generous move, Businessmen and other locals started a fundraising program aimed at providing aid to the refugees. So far, more than $150,000 has been raised by business companies to improve the conditions of the refugees.
Puntland officials have continuously repeated that they are ready to receive the refugees escaping the violence and called for the Federal government of Somalia and international community to take their role on providing aid assistance.
Not only Somalis, more than 300 Yemeni refugees have reached Bossaso so far and have been provided with shelters. Most recently, Yemeni’s ambassador to Somalia praised the humane of Puntland state and its people towards the treatment of Yemeni refugees.
‘last but not least’
The question that remains unanswered is what kind of action will the International community take against Somaliland after it has clearly violated international conventions on human rights and refugees.