- CAIRO: Somali refugees across the world have passed the one million person mark, said the United Nations refugee agency on Friday, highlighting the growing need for an end to conflict in the Horn of Africa.
The vast majority of those refugees are living in regional neighrbors, such as Kenya, Yemen, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania and Uganda, the UNHCR said.
According to statistics released by the UN High Refugee for Refugees (UNHCR), there are almost 1.36 million Somalis internally displaced within the country, settled mainly in the South-Central region as at October 11.
“UNHCR leads protection and emergency relief interventions targeting almost 1.36 million IDPs, in addition to delivering protection and assistance to over 2,100 refugees in Somalia,” the UNHCR said in the data released.
The recent security developments in the Horn of Africa has promoted Kenya to sent out an appeal to UN to mobilize all relevant agencies to embark on relocating the refugees living in Kenya to liberated areas of Somalia.
The East African nation has argued the situation created by the presence of more than 650,000 refugees at the Daadab camp in Kenya was untenable.
“Following relative improvements in the security situation in Mogadishu between February and April 2009, over 65,000 displaced people and refugees had traveled back to the capital from various areas of South Central Somalia and Somaliland, as well as from neighboring countries, such as Kenya and Yemen,” the UNHCR said.
Nonetheless, the UN refugee agency said escalating fighting between the main opposing forces have led to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes in the Somali capital Mogadishu after more than 300,000 fled in 2010 alone.
Here in Egypt, life for Somali refugees is not easy, especially as the government began earlier this year to deport unregistered migrants in the country. Making matters worse, the UNHCR has largely not registered new refugees in the country in recent years.
Hamdy is a 29-year-old Somali living in Egypt. He has been in the country for 6 years and barely survives on the UNHCR monthly allowance.
“I have no real job and life is hard,” he told Bikyamasr.com, sipping his tea and warming his hands as the steam billowed upward. He stares in silence.
“A few of my friends have been arrested by the government when they tried to cross the border into Israel. We don’t know where they are right now and pray they are safe,” he continued. “It is not a good life to be a refugee in Egypt.”
Earlier this year, Egypt deported 93 Ethiopians who entered Egypt with the goal of crossing the Sinai desert into Israel illegally.
For Hamdy and others, this is the only way to make a life for oneself. “What can we do but hope to be allowed to work and have a family,” he said.
In Egypt, life is a struggle, where Africans face racism, ostracism and a lack of opportunity. For children of migrants and refugees, going to school is impossible as the Egyptian government does not allow refugees to attend public schools.
For the vast majority of Sudanese and Somalis in the country, this leads to a waiting game, and in recent years as foreign relocation has been all but closed, they remain patiently in their host country for a call that doesn’t come.
“I was told by the UN that I would be in the country for around 10 months,” said Abdullah, a Sudanese refugee who fled Darfur violence in 2004. 7 years later, he is still in Egypt.
“I try to do some odd jobs, but I am 35-years-old and was a teacher, what could I possibly do here,” he told Bikyamasr.com.
At least four Africans have been shot dead along the border with Israel in the past month, leaving continued worries that attempting to cross the desert crossing is a risk to one’s life.
Egypt’s border security has been repeatedly criticized for its “shoot first” strategy in dealing with migrants attempting to cross into the Jewish state, as they often do not issue verbal warnings first and fire at the Africans.
Israel says that approximately 10,000 Africans have entered the country illegally via Egyptian borders over the past few years.
Africans in Egypt complain of poor living conditions and bad treatment at the hands of their host nation. Many see Israel as the next best solution for their troubles and are willing to risk death to reach the Jewish state, refugees in Egypt have repeatedly said.