Key mixed migration characteristics
Situated in the extreme north of Somalia, Somaliland is an origin, destination and transit country for mixed migrants in the Horn of Africa. Somaliland authorities estimate the population to be approximately 3.5 million. It declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but has not gained widespread international recognition.
Somaliland which remained a transit country for the flow to the port of Bossaso in Puntland, north to Djibouti as well as across the Sahara desert passing through Ethiopia, Sudan, and Libya before crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In October, 2012, Somaliland authorities resumed the registration of asylum seekers.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), during the months of August, September and October 2011, about 3,500 young men and women from Somaliland went through Ethiopia, to Sudan, then to Libya and on to cross the Mediterranean Sea on their way to western Europe.
However, in the latter part of 2011 following the Somaliland authorities announcement (from the Ministry of the Interior) that all 'unregistered' or 'undocumented' foreigners / 'illegal migrants' had one month to leave the country, they forcefully deported an unknown number (reportedly in the hundreds), mainly Ethiopians. Many others who had the means to do so reportedly returned to Ethiopia on their own. During this period, IOM assisted some 1,000 Ethiopians to return home from Somaliland as hostilities grew between the host communities and the migrants.
Somaliland is also host to a significant Internally Displaced Population (IDPs), mainly hailing from Somaliland itself but also from South-Central Somalia. The IDPs include those who are both of protracted displacement and newly arrived. Of note here is that the categorization of who is an IDP varies with the authorities including returnees, urban poor communities, refugees and minority groups.
Most recent statistics
The town of Hargeisa in Somaliland is the point of convergence for migrants being smuggled (or making their own way) from as far as Ethiopia and South-Central Somalia.
As regards IDPs, the government has assessed the figure to be 394,368 as of end 2011 but UNHCR estimates this figure to be some 85,000 - the discrepancy many be explained by the categorization of who is an IDP (see above).
Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Somaliland
According to the UNHCR Operation in Somalia there are some 84,400 people classified as 'population of concern'. Of this number a minority are refugees or asylum-seekers with just 1,775 registered as refugees and 1,875 as asylum seekers. The vast majority are IDPs (84,400), mainly from Somaliland itself with additional numbers from Somalia South-Central.
Aid agencies in Somaliland estimates that at least 20,000 undocumented migrants in Somaliland, including unknown numbers of Ethiopian economic migrants and others seeking asylum (who have not had the opportunity to register following suspension of such in 2008). In October, 2012, registration of asylum seekers
Main drivers and motivation for migration
Mixed migration in Somaliland is characterized by a rising tide of Ethiopians and Somalis who seek refuge in Somaliland and overwhelmingly use it as a transit country to Puntland or Djibouti (exit countries to Yemen) or directly use the Somaliland coastlines to sail to Yemen.
Poverty/ economic reasons, insecurity and cultural links are the main drivers of mixed migration from and through Somaliland. According to Somaliland's National Development Programme, unemployment stood at 75% amongst the country's youth in 2011. In the same year, the increased insecurity especially in South-Central Somalia and extreme drought that affected much of the Horn of Africa aggravated the dire conditions for many and increased the mixed migration flows.
Considering the level of poverty in Somaliland it is worthy of comment that like Djibouti (also low ranking) citizens from Somaliland are not highly represented in the flow of mixed migration in the region, except for those educated Somalilanders (mentioned previously).
As a country of mixed migration origin
Somaliland is a country of origin for mixed migrants especially for the youth (75% are unemployed) who choose to migrate to either the Middle East or Europe in search of better livelihoods.
The migrant figures from Somaliland are however negligible in comparison to Ethiopians and South Central Somalis.
As a country of mixed migration destination
Most of those entering Somaliland are reportedly seeking escape from harsh, oppressive and undesirable conditions elsewhere (mainly South Somalia and Ethiopia). The vast majority use Somaliland as a transit territory to Puntland or Djibouti en route to Yemen and the Gulf States. However a significant number also seek employment as casual laborers or domestic servants in Somaliland itself.
It remains to be seen how anti-migrant official policy will affect the characteristic of mixed migration in Somaliland.
As a country of mixed migration transit
As mentioned, Somaliland serves as a transit country for mixed migration flows towards Yemen, the Middle East, and beyond. Private vessels, normally operated by smugglers, depart from the Somaliland coast. The number of departures from the eastern side of Somaliland’s coast (close to Puntlands border) appears to be increasing as the Puntand authority’s clamp-down on smuggling is pushing smuggling operations from Puntland into Somaliland.
Recent reported figures have shown that the number of Ethiopians transiting through Somaliland has decreased especially after a government decree expelling undocumented foreigners (mostly Ethiopians) in 2011.
There has also been an increase in the number of Somalis who are opting to transit through the Djiboutian port of Obock to Yemen rather than from the Somaliland (and Puntland) coastline. In 2011, 30% of all arrivals in Yemen departed from Somaliland (and Puntland) coastline a 5% decrease as compared to 2010.
Characteristics of migration (means and modes)
Private vehicles and mini-buses organized by brokers/smugglers from the migrants’ point of origin (Mogadishu or cities in Ethiopia) are the most common means of transport involving mixed migration in Somaliland. Others make their way on foot.
Recent trends show that to avoid the TFG/Al-Shabaab checkpoints mounted in Lower Shabelle and Hiraan regions of South-Central Somalia, as well as checkpoints in Puntland, some migrants travel by air to Barberra and Hargeisa; a means that is increasingly considered conveniently safe, timely and cost-effective compared to travel by road.
Risks and vulnerabilities of mixed migration in Somaliland
In recent years there have been well-documented reports of robbery and violence towards migrants coming to and passing through Somaliland.
Despite the cessation of registration in 2008 many thousands of Ethiopians have left their homeland and entered Somaliland. It is not know how many of these would have registered as asylum-seekers if it had been possible. Instead those who have arrived since 2008 have an irregular status. Some pass through Somaliland in transit while others remain surviving on assistance, or casual employment and menial work. It is understood that despite being considered ‘second class’ residents in Somaliland they previously suffered little direct abuse or harassment.
However, following the September 2011 proclamation instructing all undocumented migrants to leave. Since then, various reports indicate that Ethiopians are experiencing xenophobic attitudes, are harassed by the authorities and members of the public and face forced deportation from the authorities. This is an on-going situation facing thousands of Ethiopians in Somaliland, although in recent weeks/months many thousand have also, allegedly, left Somaliland and returned to Ethiopia on their initative.
As reported by Human Rights Watch, on December 28, authorities forcibly returned 20 Ethiopians who were arrested a few days earlier during a meeting between refugee leaders and Somaliland officials at the Interior Ministry in Hageisa. The report claimed that according to UNHCR fifteen members of the group were registered refugees and five were registered asylum seekers.
National immigration policies
The government in Somaliland is unhappy about the number of people caught up in mixed migration that pass through and/or reside in their territory. However their attitude towards Somalis from South-Central appears to be far more tolerant than towards Ethiopians, allowing them to stay as 'IDPs' with other IDPs from Somaliland.
As mentioned, registration of asylum seekers ceased in 2008. Despite the move, migrants continued to flow into Somaliland up until 2011 when the government issued a decree expelling "80,000" unregistered foreigners. The decree was reinforced in November 2011 with new laws outlawing the hiring and employment of undocumented foreigners in Somaliland.
According to the 2008 Trafficking in persons report there are laws in the Republic of Somaliland explicitly prohibiting forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery, but no specific laws exist against these practices in other parts of Somalia. Trafficking for sexual exploitation may be prohibited under the most widespread interpretations of Shari'a and customary law, but there is neither a unified police force in the territory to enforce these laws, nor any authoritative legal system through which traffickers could be prosecuted.
International legislation to which Somaliland is a State Party
According to the Article 10 of Somaliland's constitution, the government maintains the international conventions and treaties that the Somali Republic convened with foreign governments (pre 1991) if such conventions are not contradictory to Shari’a law or the interests of Somaliland. Further it shall act in conformity with United Nations Charter, International law and shall respect the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
- 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees & its 1967 Protocol
- OAU 1969 Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (Republic of Somalia was a signatory but did not ratify)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
- Convention on the Rights of Children (Republic of Somalia was a signatory but did not ratify)
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
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