By Mohamed Kahiye
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – Three decades of violence have left 2.9 million of Somalia’s citizens internally displaced, but the country is also home to 25,000 refugees, including 6,800 Yemenis and over 700 Syrians.
Faith Kasina of the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has praised Somalia’s open-door policy for refugees, which allows them to move freely and work, using their skills without the need of a permit.
“Somalia had its own challenges over the years, but we must applaud this country and government because they have maintained an open-door policy for refugees for the past 30 years despite challenges they have been facing,” Kasina said. “We know that refugees are now able to live among local communities in urban areas and that they can also move around freely in the country.”
Ifrah Salah Abdalla is among millions of Yemenis who have been displaced from their homes following the war between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government. She arrived in Mogadishu six years ago and balances her time as an information technology student and a part-time cashier to support her family.
She said that when she arrived in Somalia, she didn’t face many challenges because Somali citizens stood by the Yemenis and openly welcomed them, both young and old, with the help of the UNHCR.
She added that the relevant government refugee agencies had been very supportive in business initiatives, such as opening restaurants and clinics equally to refugees and locals.
Ishak Abdullahi Elmi lived in Syria as a Somali refugee from 1996 to 2000. He is now among candidates vying for a seat as a member of federal parliament in upcoming Somali elections.
He said he thought refugees from Syria in particular should be welcomed in his country.
He said Syrians have skills and knowledge in such fields as business, education and medicine that will benefit local communities recovering from conflict.
Saed Abdullahi Alasow, director general at the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs, said the Somali government has pledged to improve the lives of refugees in the country as per U.N. conventions.
He said the ministry had established a national refugee department and had put in place an asylum-seekers bill aimed at safeguarding the rights of refugees in the country.
Analysts say that as other nations close their camps, Somalia is becoming a role model in implementing U.N. conventions by welcoming refugees.