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Communique of Ministerial Meeting on the Somali Refugee Situation commits to fresh impetus for durable solutions for Somali refugees

Campaigns, 20 August 2014

Communique of Ministerial Meeting on the Somali Refugee Situation commits to fresh impetus for durable solutions for Somali refugees

Statement by the Governments of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen; the African Union; the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development; the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia; the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees upon conclusion of Ministerial Meeting of the High Commissioner's Global Initiative on Somali Refugees in Addis Ababa on 20 August 2014

We, as key stakeholders, express appreciation to the High Commissioner for having launched the Global Initiative on Somali Refugees (GISR) to catalyse fresh impetus for durable solutions for Somali refugees.

Through the 'Addis Ababa Commitment towards Somali Refugees', we reiterate our gratitude to the Governments and the people of the key asylum countries for their solidarity and hospitality extended to Somali refugees for decades. We resolutely reaffirm our commitment to maintain asylum and international protection for Somali refugees and to intensify the search for durable solutions for them.

Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Yemen together today host nearly one million Somali refugees. Another one million Somalis remain displaced internally within Somalia itself. In their more than two decades of exile, Somali refugees have received protection, been assisted and some even been able to rebuild their lives. Yet, thousands have now for over two generations not had a future. Over time, their plight is even being forgotten as new situations elsewhere in Africa and globally have commanded greater attention. To keep forgetting their predicament is not forgivable. We must remain committed and engaged both within the region and internationally.

Emerging signs of stability in Somalia are heartening. The establishment of a government in Mogadishu, expedited state formation, progress towards holding elections in 2016 and the efforts of the Somali National Army with AMISOM to liberate areas within Somalia signify crucial progress. However, we remain gravely concerned about the security breaches, particularly terrorist attacks by al-Shabaab and other militia, which undermine the positive steps, perpetuate a fragile security situation, limit humanitarian assistance to displaced Somalis, risk the displacement of more Somalis and frustrate opportunities for the safe and sustainable return to their homes of Somali refugees and internally displaced persons many of whom are eager to do so.

The Somali Federal Government renews its determination to multiply all efforts for peace and political, social and economic stability and progress of Somalia and its people. As Somalia's neighbours and partners, we renew our commitment to stand by and support Somalia and its long-suffering people. We call upon the international community at large to meaningfully support the capacity of the Somali Government to create peace, security, law and order, social and economic progress and sustainability in Somalia and address humanitarian imperatives including assuring food security for Somalia and basic services and amenities. These are also the conditions which will mitigate against new or additional displacement and make voluntary, safe and sustainable repatriation in significant numbers possible.

For Somalis who continue to need safety in exile, more comprehensive support should be extended to the asylum countries and host communities to strengthen asylum and international protection. All feasible and creative solutions should be explored and supported for refugees to realize themselves as full and self-reliant members of society who can meet their basic human and community needs. In particular, we call for further financial support and all other forms of increased solidarity and responsibility-sharing to meet basic human and social needs, link humanitarian assistance to development programmes and address the impacts of hosting refugees.

More opportunities for the resettlement of Somali refugees should be provided. Somali refugees who are spontaneously returning to their country should be supported to do so in all feasible ways so that they are not forced back into exile. The participation of the refugees themselves and of the Somali diaspora and the private sector at large should be increased.

For all these purposes, we hereby endorse a renewed engagement for Somali refugees which binds us to act in solidarity to address the imperatives of this pressing problem. At the heart of these commitments are guiding principles which emphasize the importance of the Somali Federal Government's commitment in actions concerning Somali refugees, the imperative of continued support to host communities, the need to increase refugee participation and the Somali diaspora at large in future actions and to create differentiated solutions for a diverse refugee population, the benefits of considering new alternatives for long-staying refugees, and the importance of engaging new actors in the search for solutions.

We undertake to work with national, regional and international partners in a coordinated manner to give effect to the renewed commitments and outcomes of relevant sub-regional and regional meetings. We call upon the international community, through the Global Initiative on Somali Refugees, to commit to the renewed engagement and work together for a more meaningful life for Somali refugees.

Addis Ababa, Wednesday 20 August 2014

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East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

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