Key mixed migration characteristics
Puntland is situated on the eastern side of Somaliland and north of South Somalia. It is an origin, destination and transit country for mixed migrants in the Horn of Africa. Puntland is a transit zone for mixed migrants mostly from Ethiopia and South Somalia who seek to cross the Gulf of Aden from the port of Bossaso into Yemen.
Despite the immense poverty, few migrants documented and encountered in Yemen originate from Puntland. UNHCR figures from Yemen indicate that majority of Somali migrants arriving from the Port of Bossaso in Puntland are from SouthContral Somalia.
According to the Trafficking in Persons report 2008 government officials may be involved in human trafficking; business people involved in smuggling of persons in Puntland, for instance, purportedly enjoy protection and work with the knowledge of influential officials within the administration.
Most recent statistics
The town of Bossaso in Puntland is the converging point for migrants being smuggled from Ethiopia (mostly Ogaden region) and South Central Somalia. It is also the point of arrival for relatively limited group of returnees from Yemen. RMMS analysis show that the trends in late 2011 have increased despite the escalating political crisis and rising insecurity in Yemen.
Only 2% of the recorded Somali arrivals in Yemen were from Puntland itself during November 2011 out of a total of over 9000. During 2011 a total of over 100,000 Ethiopians and Somalis who arrived on Yemen’s shores in the mixed migration flows.
Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Puntland
According to the UNHCR Somalia Operation Fact Sheet December 2011, there are 139,000 IDPs, 4,165 asylum seekers and 336 refugees cumulating to a total of 143,501 population of concern. Approximately 3-4000 people per month depart with smugglers from Bossaso (and its environs) to cross the Gulf of Aden
Most of the IDPs live in approximately two dozen IDP settlements in and around Bossaso and other IDP settlements in Garowe and Galkayo. These settlements also offer shelter to refugees and asylum seekers from Ethiopia and destitute communities from the surrounding areas/urban poor.
Main drivers and motivation for migration
Puntland has a government-estimated population of 2.4 million, 65% of which are nomadic. It declared itself an ‘autonomous state’ within Somalia in 1998. Subsequently the UNDP does not compile the poverty and development indices for the area. Poverty, insecurity and reported political-bases oppression in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region and South Central Somalia contribute to the surge in number of migrants flowing into Puntland.
A vibrant money transfer network and a flourishing smuggling network/ organized crime combine to make Puntland attractive for migrants of mixed flow.
As a country of mixed migration origin
Puntland is a country of origin for Somali migrants especially young and unemployed youths who choose to migrate to the Middle East and Europe in search of better livelihoods, but not in high numbers.
As a country of mixed migration destination
Most of those coming to Puntland are seeking escape from harsh, oppressive and undesirable conditions elsewhere (mainly South Somalia and Ethiopia). They use Puntland as a transit territory to Yemen and the Gulf States. Some seek employment as casual labourers or domestic servants but this is mostly temporary to save enough money for the journey to Yemen. Many migrants have to work for over a year in Puntland to make enough money for the journey to Yemen.
As a country of mixed migration transit
Every year, tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers make the hazardous journey from Ethiopia and South Somalia to Puntland and onwards across the Gulf of Aden. Bossaso and its surrounding coastal points - which are dangerous to access - have been major transit points for irregular migrants en route towards the Gulf States. These migrants risk their lives in an attempt to make the sea voyage from Bossaso to Yemen, although significantly less in terms of proportions of the total than previous years.
The operation of smuggling networks facilitates this migratory flow benefiting from the poor institutional capacity of Puntland’s authorities to monitor its borders and to manage migration. The Puntland administration claims they are active in the fight against smugglers; cracking down on them and confiscating their boats in a bid to stop the activity.
Characteristics of migration (means and modes)
Migrants arrive in Puntland through various means including air transport but mainly by foot and using mini-buses and other private vehicles. Those who can afford to, contract smugglers who organize road transport from as far as Mogadishu/Addis Ababa to Bossaso. From here they then use 'boat smugglers' to ferry them across the Arabian Sea to Yemen.
In previous years the reports of abuse and violence against the migrants during these journeys were frequent and severe.
Risks and vulnerabilities of mixed migration in Puntland
The journey from Bossaso to Yemen is hazardous and far longer than the crossing from Barb El Mandeb in Djibouti across the Red Sea. Cases of boats capsizing and deaths at sea are not uncommon. In recent years hundreds have been reportedly found dead along the Yemen coastline, most having been thrown of the over-crowded boats mid voyage and having been physically abused. Cases of robbery, sexual and physical abuse and extortion during the course of their journey are common. There are specific and frequent reports of sexual and physical abuse of migrants as they wait to board the smugglers' boats along the Somali coast. The perpetrators are reportedly the armed groups that control the smuggling as well as the captains and crew of vessels that transport the migrants.
National immigration policies
There are laws prohibiting forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery. 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 can be prosecuted. Furthermore, Puntland does have a long coastline that makes it difficult to effectively control.
In Puntland, the Ministry of Interior and the Refugees Affairs Commission take the lead on trafficking issues. Puntland authorities operate a temporary transit and processing center (Migration Response Center) where Ethiopian migrants receive counseling and assistance from local and international humanitarian organizations.
There are reports that government officials may be involved in trafficking; business people involved in smuggling in Puntland, for instance, purportedly enjoy protection and work with the knowledge of influential officials within the administration. The Government has also tried to repatriate migrants to Ethiopia and South Central Somalia but the initiative failed because they simply returned.
International legislation to which Puntland is a State Party
According to the Puntland 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 Puntland.
- 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
Other sites offering comprehensive country profile information other than mixed migration
- The US Central Intelligence Agency Fact File
- Human Rights Watch
- International Organization for Migration