UN Says Somalis in Need of International Protection

By: Lisa Schlein | Geneva - Voice of America News

May 11, 2010

The United Nations refugee agency is appealing to all governments to grant asylum to people fleeing from central and southern Somalia. The UNHCR warns Somalis face many risks at home and are in need of international protection.

The UN refugee agency says it is alarmed at the worsening security and humanitarian situation in Somalia. It says conditions in Somalia have been steadily deteriorating for some time and are particularly acute in the central and southern parts of the country.

It says Somalis from these areas are in need of international protection and should be granted asylum even though they may not meet the criteria for refugee status under the 1951 Convention.

Under the Convention, UNHCR Spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, explains a refugee is someone fleeing a war or specific persecution.

"In view of the nature of this conflict and the dramatic humanitarian situation, we do not believe that Somali refugees can find an internal relocation alternative in central or southern Somalia," she said. "We also do not consider that internal flight into Somaliland or Puntland is available for any Somali not originating from these territories."

The UNHCR has just issued new guidelines aimed at strengthening protection for Somali refugees. Fleming says the guidelines encourage governments to assess applications from people from central and southern Somalia in the broadest possible way. She says they also urge governments to grant temporary asylum to those who are refused refugee status.

"Although most asylum countries will examine claims on an individual basis, we encourage countries facing large numbers of arrivals to grant protection to persons from Southern and Central Somali on a group basis. And, this is already happening in the neighboring countries," said the spokeswoman.

Countries that evaluate Somali asylum claims on a group basis are Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen.

According to the guidelines, groups that should receive asylum include those who support the transitional federal government, people perceived as contravening Islamic laws or decrees, civil activists, journalists and members of minority religious groups.

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