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Somalia deportations

Briefing notes

Somalia deportations

10 October 2006

UNHCR is very concerned about the deportation of migrants by Somali authorities in the north-eastern port city of Bossaso. UN agencies and international organisations working in Bossaso have requested the authorities to temporarily suspend the forced returns until UNHCR has a chance to check that there are no asylum seekers among those being deported - mainly to Ethiopia. We have also learnt there are hundreds of internally displaced Somalis being arrested and detained in north-eastern Somalia/Puntland, as well as being sent back to other parts of Somalia - mainly to the strife-torn south and central regions. These actions seem to be the result of a 25 September decree issued by the president of Puntland State aimed at halting human smuggling from Somalia across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Already since this year's sailing season started in September, at least 54 people have died making the voyage.

While countries have a right to deport illegal immigrants, authorities have to ensure those being returned would not have their lives or freedom threatened if sent back to their countries of origin. We have received reports that last Sunday some 1,300 Ethiopian migrants were handed over to Ethiopian authorities at the border town of Galladi, in south-eastern Ethiopia. Some of the deportees were reportedly injured as they attempted to jump off the trucks to escape deportation. We have no information regarding the treatment of deportees back in Ethiopia. Another group of some 500 migrants is being held at a mosque in Bossaso prior to deportation. UNHCR is working with the authorities to undertake a screening to identify potential asylum seekers amongst this group. At the same time, UN World Food Programme and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) have agreed to provide one-time food assistance to the group.

A team of UNHCR protection staff are travelling to Bossaso tomorrow (Wednesday) to finalise arrangements to jump-start a process for refugee status determination. The team will also meet with authorities to discuss ensuring the protection of the rights of asylum seekers as well as the arrests, detentions and forced returns of those to south and central Somalia.