The Dutch government should not deport failed asylum seekers from Somalia to any part of south-central Somalia, including Mogadishu, until security improves substantially, and the UN refugee agency has issued new guidelines, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week.
Somalia, the Horn of Africa country that has been plagued by more than 20 years of civil war, still experiences daily bomb and heavy-gun machine attacks from the Al-Shabab militia group which is fighting to overthrow the West and African Union-backed government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.
Scores have been killed, and injured, and others left the country with no hope of return to this land of hell.
But Somalians whose request for asylum has been rejected in the Netherlands face a forced return as the Dutch government is about to lift a 22-month moratorium to deport Somalians and resume the controversial process.
HRW said in June the European Court of Human Rights ruled that indiscriminate violence in Mogadishu put anyone returned there at risk of serious harm. “The court stressed that insecurity in Mogadishu meant that Somalis from other parts of south-central Somalia could not safely transit through the city to reach their homes.”
However, the Netherlands government announced in mid-December that all people from Mogadishu will have their status reviewed on an individual basis as security in their hometown has ‘vastly’ improved. This also means that all Somalians, including those residing outside Mogadishu, could face deportation.
But the New York-based rights organisation has warned against such move. HRW senior refugee researcher Gerry Simpson said: “While security has improved in parts of Mogadishu, the city is by no means safe, and the rest of south-central Somalia is still plagued by conflict, attacks on civilians, and serious rights abuses.”
The current UNHCR guidance, which dates from May 2010, is due to be updated soon.
AU troops fighting under the AMISOM mandate have made significant gains, managing to chase Al Shabab fighters out of Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia.
Simpson added: “While the level of violence has decreased in Mogadishu, that doesn’t mean the situation in the city – or in the rest of south-central Somalia – is stable enough to send people back.
“Civilians still risk getting caught up in indiscriminate violence involving all of Somalia’s warring parties, and face targeted attacks, including sexual violence and politically motivated killings, as well as arbitrary arrests and other abuses.”
In July last year, a group of 77 Somali refugees spent a night on the pavement outside the office of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) in the southern Dutch city of Den Bosch, Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa reported.
All the 77 refugees, whose requests for asylum were turned down, were protesting about restrictions that have been placed on their freedom of movement. They have been since waiting to be deported. However, the Dutch Council of State decided two weeks before that night vigil that Somalia was still too unsafe for them to be forced to return.
*Photo: Somali refugees carrying loads of firewood in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.