growing U.S. government concerns about the alleged presence
of extremist groups in Somalia linked with the terrorist network
of Osama bin Laden, the international community largely continues
to largely ignore a golden opportunity to strengthen stability
and political moderation in Somalia's peaceful northwest corner--known
as Somaliland--where a fragile young government is seeking
good relations with the West.
to a new report released today by the U.S. Committee for Refugees
(USCR), tens of thousands of refugees are in the process of
returning home to Somaliland in 2001 and 2002 because the
region has achieved relative peace and security, in stark
contrast to the anarchy and violence that continue in the
rest of Somalia.
Somaliland's tentative signs of progress and its dire need
for international humanitarian assistance, however, the world
has failed to provide development aid and support for population
reintegration that could help prevent future problems and
make Somaliland a much-needed island of stability in the volatile
Horn of Africa.
USCR report, Welcome Home to Nothing: Refugees Repatriate
to a Forgotten Somaliland, urges the U.S. government and other
international donors to provide long-overdue humanitarian
assistance to Somaliland's 3.5 million people, particularly
to former refugees struggling to reintegrate into the extremely
impoverished, predominantly Muslim society.
and other nations should recognize that support for development
and stability in Somaliland is ultimately in the world's best
interest," the USCR report states.
declared independence from the rest of Somalia after the fall
of dictator Siad Barre in 1991 but has failed to receive international
diplomatic recognition. As a result, Somaliland has generally
been shunned by donor countries and lacks access to multilateral
development aid needed to rehabilitate its social services,
economy, and government.
negligible help from the international community, Somaliland
continues to absorb tens of thousands of refugees repatriating
from eastern Ethiopia's refugee camps," the report states.
"The large-scale return home is placing additional stress
on Somaliland's fragile infrastructure.
lack of meaningful development assistance has limited the
already weak capacity of Somaliland's government, United Nations
agencies, and international nongovernmental organizations
striving to properly reintegrate returnees." Many inhabitants
of Somaliland, including most repatriated refugees, live in
makeshift camps and slums in an economic system devastated
by war and neglect. Returnees to the semi-arid desert area
must rely on decrepit water systems and inadequate health
care and social services for their basic needs.
look at the state of Somaliland today confirms that with proper
support for refugee reintegration, the international community
could play an integral role in the rehabilitation of Somaliland,"
the report says.
report urges international donors and the UN to view the repatriation
of refugees to Somaliland as a timely opportunity to diminish
the chance of future acts of international terrorism by investing
in the development of a peaceful but long-forgotten corner
of the Horn of Africa.
a copy of Welcome Home to Nothing: Refugees Repatriate to
a Forgotten Somaliland, visit the USCR web site at www.refugees.org.
Or phone USCR at 202-347-3507.
Committee for Refugees is a non-profit, nongovernmental organization
that monitors, reports, analyzes, and advocates on humanitarian
assistance and protection issues affecting refugees and internally
displaced persons worldwide.
Africa Policy Analyst
U.S. Committee for Refugees
1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NWSuite 200
Washington, DC 20036