The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is supporting thousands of Somali nationals return from war-torn Yemen, the UN reported in a briefing yesterday.
The last boat carrying some 116 Somali refugees arrived at the Berbera port in Somalia on Sunday. According to the UNHCR, the Assisted Spontaneous Returns (ASR) programme was initiated in 2017 and has supported over 2,000 Somali refugees.
This year, 1,321 Somalis have been shipped across the Red Sea and have officially returned to Somalia. There are some 270,000 refugees in Yemen, of which 256,362 are Somali.
Some 45 per cent of the refugees are stationed at Yemen’s only refugee camp, Kharaz, in the south of the country. While others are based in the Basateen urban settlement in Aden.
Over 2,000 refugees who were in Yemen have now gone back to Somalia since 2017.
UNHCR is working to ensure refugees are able to make voluntary + properly informed decisions about returns, especially given the current context in Yemenhttps://t.co/7SqDUR0TFh
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) August 7, 2018
“UNHCR and partners face significant challenges in ensuring safe living environments, adequate protection, humanitarian assistance, and access to essential, life-saving services,” a briefing note by the UNHCR said. Refugees in Yemen are “vulnerable” to early marriage, child exploitation, detention and labour in the midst of war and conflict.
The UNHCR’s ASR programme is voluntary, though an information campaign is run for refugees to make informed decisions regarding their return. The UNHCR works in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Yemen authorities.
A boat journey from southern Yemen to Somalia takes up to 17 hours. The UNHCR’s ASR programme provides some financial assistance to purchase basic amenities for the journey and to pay off any debts looming in Yemen.
Adding to this, the UNHCR pays Somali refugees a “reinstallation cash grant” and an allowance upon arrival in Somalia. Refugees are then connected with the World Food Programme (WFP) which provides them with survival packages containing household items and an education grant for primary school children.
Somalia has been riddled with domestic fragility and weak governance for over a decade amid an uptick of terrorism across the country.
Last year in March, the UN said Somalia is on the brink of an all-out famine. Somali refugees have since attempted to leave with some seeking asylum in Canada and the United States.