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UNHCR seeks legal protection for Somali refugees

Wednesday September 21, 2022

After spending six years in Dadaab, Somali refugee Amal has decided to return to Somalia with her three-year-old twins Fawzan and Furad.  © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

MOGADISHU (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, on Tuesday released new guidance on the eligibility for refugee status of Somalis fleeing their country.

The UNHCR's new guidelines assert that States must allow people fleeing Somalia to seek safety and that their refugee claims be assessed according to international law.

"Those found to be fleeing violence, human rights abuses, and persecution would meet the criteria for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention, or under regional instruments, or UNHCR's broader mandate," the UN agency said in a statement.

According to the UNHCR, the guidance aims to assist those adjudicating international protection claims by asylum seekers from Somalia and those responsible for setting government policy on this issue.

There were 836,300 Somali refugees and asylum seekers worldwide at the end of 2021, most of them -- almost 80 percent or more than 650,000 -- hosted in neighboring and regional countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, Djibouti, Uganda, and Sudan, the UNHCR said.

Elizabeth Tan, UNHCR's Director of International Protection, applauded the commitment of neighboring countries to upholding their international legal obligations by keeping their borders open to Somalis who are fleeing in search of safety.

"But we urge all countries to do the same. They can also help provide further support to regional host countries, and increase resettlement places for Somali and other refugees at heightened risk in countries of asylum," said Tan.

Somalia is facing its worst drought in 40 years and there is a risk of widespread famine in the coming months, according to the UN.

The UNHCR said the worsening security situation, including human rights violations, exacerbates the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, undermining the government and humanitarian actors' ability to respond.  


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