“We are now begging for bus fare so we can return to Ethiopia; the government here will not allow us to continue begging”, said Farah Abdi, an Ethiopian mother of three, who survives by begging in Hargeisa.
Authorities in Somalia’s self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland have given a month’s notice to an estimated 80,000 illegal immigrants – mostly Ethiopian – to leave the region.
“After evaluating the status of the illegal immigrants, we realized that these people have no benefits for the country; on the contrary, they are a problem in terms of security,” said Osman Garad Sofe, Somaliland’s Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Reintegration. “For this reason, the government of Somaliland has given a month’s notice to all illegal immigrants to leave the country. Those who do not leave will face legal charges and be deported.”
Sofe told a news conference in Hargeisa, the Somaliland capital, that those targeted did not include registered refugees or Somalis displaced from the larger Somalia.
Ahmed Elmi Barre, the director-general in the ministry, said: “We recognize only 1,772 Ethiopian refugees out of 80,000 to 90,000 illegal immigrants in Somaliland. And the decision will affect those of every nationality living in Somaliland illegally.”
Ibrahim Bulshaale, chairman of the Organization of Ethiopian Refugees in Somaliland, told IRIN: “Fewer than 2,000 Ethiopians are recognized by Somaliland; most of these arrived in 1991 while others came in the 2000s. In 2006, Somaliland informed UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] that it did not have the capacity to host any more refugees; for this reason, no asylum seekers are accepted any more in Somaliland. The process of seeking asylum started at the Ministry of Interior and the ministry has already closed its doors to any more refugees. Those who are recognized as refugees have legal cards identifying them as members of our organization.”
An Ethiopian immigrant, Mohamed Ali, 20, who works as a car-washer in Hargeisa, said many Ethiopians in the region were from Oromia [one of Ethiopia’s fertile region], which is badly affected by an ongoing drought that has undermined livelihoods.
“Because of the drought, many of us had nothing to eat and nothing to do; when we came to Somaliland, we found that life is better, we can survive,” Ali said. “Now the Somaliland government says it does not want us, what can I do? I will simply obey and leave.”
Farah Abdi, a mother of three, who survives by begging in Hargeisa, said: “We are now begging for bus fare so we can return to Ethiopia; the government here will not allow us to continue begging.”
At the same time, authorities in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland also have initiated a scheme to issue ID cards to internally displaced persons (IDPs) from southern Somalia who have sought refuge in the region. The move, as officials said, would weed out militias and other criminal elements from genuine IDPs.