Over 3000 Somali Refugees Receiving Protection in Eritrea: UNHCR

Over 3000 Somalia refugees currently living inside the Umkulu refugee camp in Eritrea
UNHCR staff verifying details of Somali refugees in Emkulu camp, eastern Eritrea


According to the March 2014 fact sheet released by UNHCR Eritrea, over 3000 Somalia refugees currently living inside the Umkulu refugee camp near the port city of Massawa while other refugee groups from Sudan and South Sudan lives in the urban areas getting the required protection and assistance.

The report indicates that the encamped Somali refugees have been in Eritrea for almost two decades and have not yet found durable solution due to lack of availability of livelihood opportunities within the camp, lack of interest in voluntary repatriations as well as problems with the in-country case-processing mechanisms by resettlement countries such as Canada, Australia, and USA. 

Access to asylum and protection of the State of Eritrea for individual non-Somali asylum seekers is currently not open. For that, non-Somali groups enjoy a relatively higher level of socio-economic integration with out being formally recognized as refugees by the State of Eritrea.

According to UNHCR Eritrea, Somali refugees who are granted prima facie status by the  State of Eritrea enjoys a level of protection that is overall satisfactory.

Since 2011, however, a reflection on the strategic direction of the UNHCR operation in Eritrea resulted in reorienting the program provided to Somali refugees in Eritrea from protracted care and maintenance to solutions, socio-economic integration and self-reliance.

Following the assessments on a multiyear livelihoods strategy, plan of action are being developed to improve refugees’ stay in Eritrea while awaiting durable solutions, mainly resettlement and voluntary repatriation including local integration opportunities.

On 27 March 2014, for instance, a group of 39 Somali refugees (15 cases) moved to the Emergency Transit Facilities (ETF) in Hummene, Slovakia for further resettlement processing to the USA. That puts the total resettlement departures from Umkulu refugee camp for the years 2013 and 2014 at 528 individuals.

In 2012, Eritrea signed the 1969 OAU Convention on the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa but has not yet ratified it. It has also not acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. State owned refugee status determination and asylum procedures are not yet in place either.

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The full report can be found here: UNHCR Eritrea
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10 thoughts on “Over 3000 Somali Refugees Receiving Protection in Eritrea: UNHCR

  1. .
    Somali refugee makes most of education opportunity in Eritrea

    MASSAWA, Eritrea, July 1, 2013 (UNHCR) – Nothing has deterred Somali refugee Hali Shukri Ibrahim from her passion to get an education. Not an early forced marriage, nor war, nor separation from her parents, husband and baby son, nor exile.

    In fact, the 26-year-old says becoming a refugee gave her the prized opportunity to study, and stoked her ambitions. Goals that back home, in Mogadishu, capital of then war-torn Somalia, would have been limited to raising a large family, she says.

    Now a Grade 12 student at an Eritrean government high school near her home in Umkulu Refugee Camp, Hali is dreaming big. “I want to study hard, go to the university and become a doctor,” she says. “When I came to Eritrea, I could hardly speak and write English. Now I am somewhat fluent and can write it.”

    It was her effort to learn English that started her on the meandering journey that brought her to this Red Sea port town, where more than 3,400 fellow Somalis live in the refugee camp.

    At home in Mogadishu, she listened to the BBC to improve her English. One day in 2008 she heard on the BBC Family Tracing Programme that her parents were in Eritrea – and looking for her.

    She had been a refugee with them there once before, in 1996 at the age of nine, but she went back to her native Somalia when fighting broke out later along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea – leaving her entire family behind. Back in Mogadishu, she was married off to a complete stranger before even finishing primary school.

    Once her husband learned her parents were looking for her, in an act of self-sacrifice he agreed to divorce her. He even helped her set off alone to find them. Parting from her two-year-old son, Hali set off through Djibouti before finally achieving the long-awaited reunion with her ageing parents.

    Life in Umkulu Refugee Camp brought an unexpected benefit: UNHCR pays for Hali to attend the government school, 20 minutes from the camp, buys her school uniforms and takes care of the transport.

    “I wouldn’t want to be doing anything right now, other than studying,” she says. Today, she uses her new language skills to work part-time as a Somali-English translator.

    After rejoining her parents and getting a priceless education, her joy became complete when, five years after she had last seen him, UNHCR reunited her with her son, now seven. He too is now getting an education in the camp.

    “My joy is boundless. To have my son back with me is to restore part of me that was dead,” says Hali. “I’m happy to have him with me and take care of my diabetic father,” she adds. “Of course I have to juggle between my schoolwork and family responsibilities, but I am not complaining.”

    This camp has just one primary school, attended by more than 1,100 pupils in kindergarten to Grade Eight. Because there are fewer than 100 secondary school students in the camp, “it is not cost effective to build a secondary school, and therefore UNHCR prefers that the refugee are integrated in the Eritrean public schools,” says Viola Kuhaisa, education officer in UNHCR’s Nairobi Regional Support Hub, who recently worked with UNHCR’s Eritrean team in the camp.

    For Hali, it doesn’t matter whether the school is inside the camp, or 20 minutes away, as long as she gets an education. “If I was in Somalia,” she says, “I’d be married with five or more children. I am eternally grateful to UNHCR for allowing me to pursue my dream and passion.”

  2. I like Somali people. There is a definite bond and affinity between Somalis and Eritreans. It's not just a shared dislike of the Ethiopian State. Eritreans will always appreciate the support they received from Somalis during their lonely fight for independence.

    When the Somali soccer team played at Asmara Stadium for the CECAFA tournament in 2008, it was greeted like the home team. The crowd at Asmara Stadium was given a copy to the lyrics of the Somali national anthem and sang along. The Somali players were greeted like brothers everywhere they went in Asmara with people giving them free drinks and giving them a big welcome in general. They said they were touched by the warm reception they received.

  3. We Eritrean are always welcome our guests with both hands regardless where they come from. In Eritrea the color of everybody's eye is the same.

    1. Aba Tirreg, indeed it is our best embedded culture that separate us apart from others on the positive side, respect our guests wholeheartedly, not to take advantage of the disadvantageous situations like others .

  4. I loved the story of that lady who is attending her 12th grade school, and i'm happy also that Eritrea can do her contribution to our somali brothers. Most of all I wish for them a free and peaceful Land of All somalis and the abandon of the "carriers of disorder".

  5. UNHCR are admiring the Eritrean Government and on the aether hand sanction Us .I'm Proud to be born from Eritrea.Life is very exiting to be an Eritrean .I'm proud the humanity of my people,the blessed people .GOD BLESS ERITREA.

  6. If it wasen´t for the US´s animosity to our region and weyANUS slave mentality , Eritrea could´ve "fixed" Somalia and these brothers and sisters of us could´ve gone back home a long time ago.

  7. I grow up in Madoshto not far from rega somal in Akrea. I new a lot of them and they are very good people. When I was in Holland at refugee camp the Somalia brothers were the people who help me in a lot of things. I just can not stop admiring them more. I hope one day they will have a strong leader that can manage to re-istablish their nation and remove the Ethiopian influence.


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