Op-Ed: The Challenges Faced by Arab Refugees in Hargeisa and the Way Forward

Nizar Foazi, the CEO of a local organization called Yemeni Community, brought his entire family from Yemen to Somaliland after the outbreak of war in early 2015. The extended family of 22 now lives in Hargeisa. Ashley Hamer
Nizar Foazi, the CEO of a local organization called Yemeni Community, brought his entire family from Yemen to Somaliland after the outbreak of war in early 2015. The extended family of 22 now lives in Hargeisa. Ashley Hamer

By:Abdirahman Ali


Later 2015 and since the Arab Spring more than a million women, men and children have undertaken dangerous journeys to reach a various areas such as northern European countries, America and Some part of east African countries such as Djibouti, Somalia and Somaliland using illegal migration routes across the Mediterranean Sea, south-east Europe and the Red sea and the Indian Ocean. Not all of them have reached their desired destination, and many have died or gone missing on the way these people reflect diverse nationalities, languages and levels of literacy, income, social status and access to social services and needs. But they have one devastating aspect in common – they require information, psychosocial support to make decisions about their next steps, to remain safe and meet their minimum survival needs. And the ways which is mandatory to support them as I recommended and suggested. This study provides a snapshot of refugees of the trouble of the refugees during their stay in the country, the different ways in which they receive assistance, the role of our government in helping these people, and the public perception of Arab immigrants that increasing recent months, the causes of this problem and the role of help in our society in rescuing and welcoming these people.


The study also examines the challenges they face and how they access and use information, and presents the concerns and challenges faced by humanitarian agencies in addressing their needs. The research shows that regardless of several challenges, there are opportunities for effective communication with people affected by this refugee crisis. It is encouraging that many of the recommendations from agencies reflect the needs highlighted by refugees, such as the need for more translators, a preference for face-to-face communication, and the need for support in communication around rights and legal issues. The research highlights that many refugees feel their voice is not being heard, and that they have no one who can provide them with answers. This is leading to frustration and mistrust. The research also outlined the importance of agencies and governments being honest about what they do not know, and sharing any accurate information they do have regularly and reliably, to build a relationship of trust.


Readmore: The Challenges Faced by Arab Refugees in Hargeisa and the Way Forward


  1. Introduction


This paper encompasses the brief study of research about the Arab Refugees in Hargeisa Streets and the Way Forward. The paper also covers statement of the problem, research objective, scope of the study and the conclusion and recommendations about appropriate solutions and recommendations.


  1. Research Objectives


To examine the information and the social needs of refugees along their journey to and within Hargiesa, Somaliland and to understand how they face the life challenges


To examine the views of humanitarian agencies working with refugees and the challenges they face in addressing refugees’ needs.


To explore and understand their daily routine and how they survive in this unrecognized country of Somaliland


To use Humanitarian responders these comprehensions to adjust and respond to refugees’ social needs


  1. Problem Statement


I have investigated the difficulty situation and the way out of Arab refugees in Hargeisa who are displaced for their homes and become refugees in our country as a result of various factors, such as civil wars, foreign attacks, internal pressures, all of these actions and devotions are based on political issues, internal and external pressures and even private interests.

According to (UNHCR) Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk. They have been assisting them for over half a century. In 2019, the number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate rose to 20.4 million. A further 5.6 million registered refugees are cared for in some 60 camps across the Middle East by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which was set up in 1949 to care for displaced Palestinians.


The protection of refugees has many aspects. These include safety from being returned to danger, access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and measures to ensure that their basic human rights are respected while they secure a longer-term solution. UNHCR works around the clock to accomplish all of this, but they can’t do it alone. 1951 The Refugee Convention describes refugees as people who are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence, and have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. People fleeing conflicts or generalized violence are also generally considered as refugees, although sometimes under legal mechanisms other than the 1951 Convention.


The possible the causes of this problem and the most common factor for forced migration around the world is conflict. Most recently, the world’s focus has been on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, with nearly 75% of the country’s Muslim population fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh in the wake of violence and ethnic cleansing. In 2017, amid the escalation of ongoing tension and violence, the United Nations deemed the trouble of the Rohinyga the “fastest-growing refugee emergency” in the world. (UNHCR, 2019, Conflicts in Myanmar).


One of the biggest factors for migration are the economic challenges that may affect individuals in their countries of origin. The UN’s 2018 World Migration Report notes that this is a major driver in West Africa, where temporary and permanent migrant workers commonly relocate from countries like Niger and Mali to Ghana and the Côte d’Ivoire for more opportunities to work and support their families. Niger, for example, has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world (by 2050 it is expected to triple compared to 2017 figures). However, the country is unable to keep up with the demand for jobs as more and more Nigeriens become old enough to enter the workforce.


Hunger’s connection to drought and other causes on this list is significant: What people in farming regions don’t consume from their own harvests is sold make a living. War and conflict can also mean a lack of access to markets and fields, or that crops and food supplies are destroyed or stolen. Other causes of hunger around the world add up to the same result: Without any other alternatives, families affected by food shortages are often separated by forced migration, with one parent (usually the father) seeking work in a city to cover costs. Other families leave as a unit to begin their life in a new country.


Forced migration has been a norm in the Middle East for most of the 21st Century, according to Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre. Syria’s deadly civil war has caused over 11 million instances of forced migration. To-date nearly 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced, and over 5.6 million Syrians are counted as refugees. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest number of displaced people on the continent of Africa, with nearly 6 million people forced from their homes by various conflicts. South Sudan has been continuously plagued by war-induced migration during its short existence. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and subsequent instruments of international human rights law and international humanitarian law play a vital role in providing protection for refugees and externally displaced peoples. There is guiding principles of human rights and some of the important ones are these followings ones


Human rights Refugees should enjoy access to public health services equivalent to that of the host population (Article 23, Refugee Convention of 1951).Under international law, everyone has the right to the highest standards of physical and mental health (Article 12, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1966). Uniqueness refugees and other PoCs to UNHCR are unique groups which often have special needs due to their circumstances (e.g. trauma and violence including sexual violence, different languages and cultures, issues related to durable solutions, dependency upon external support and limited economic opportunities). Age, Gender and Diversity all policies and programmes must respect gender equality and the rights of all refugees and other PoCs of all ages and backgrounds. The gap that was found during this brief study was contextual gap because the above studies was not conducted before in our city of Hargiesa and even in our country.


  1. Literature Review


Literature review is very essential step when it’s exploring and searching an information and making mini and big researches and observations and I have read and looked back the history of the issue and the relevant researches and papers already have published and I have referred talking about and to get a former document this will help us to connect the former causes and consequences and the contemporary manner of myopic that reflects your current information enthusiastic and realistic data.


According to UNHCR some facts about refugees that generally in the world updated to the report that at end of 2015 there were 63.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This number include 21.3 refugees and about 10 M stateless people with the rest mostly being accounted for by internationally migrated from Arab countries and others so this is latest estimation of forcibly people because of different root cause of problems such as wars and lack of basic needs and that is as I mentioned above last record since the creation of UNHCR in 1950.


In addition the growth of this number is evidently associated with episodes of conflict and violence of these countries Somalia, south Sudan and Syrian conflicts have been responsible or influence for the major outflows of refugees and movements Arab refugees over the past decades with Syrian and other Arabs conflict. This section, I review study on the welfare of Syrian welfare refugees in Jordan and Lebanon jointly conducted by World Bank and UNHCR 2014.The study relied entirely on existing data collected by UNHCR provides an example of what welfare economics can do for the forcibly analytical data and policy perspectives. At the height of the crisis in 2014 Syrian had 6.5 million about half of Syrian pre conflict population and they dispread the entirely world.


Studies of Palestinian Arab refugees that begging as they mentioned their studies from their left areas under Jewish control for a long and year’s period of time, parties to intractable conflict develop collective memory of it, which plays an important role in conflict. It also shapes and shows us the psychological and behavioral reactions of each party then becomes to spread all of the countries of the world some of them were positively to towards itself and others negative towards the rival, for their migrations and movements, the realizations of the importance of this memory has led to recent great interest in it among politicians and scholars as a national and international level, One of the main sources that influence this event is the historical memory of conflict between Israel and Palestine the way scholars view this problem, and in addition that according other impact and effect of other countries that Somaliland country is one of those countries.


I have made some observation to the UNHCHs office in Hargiesa and I have interviewed one refugee and told me t to use as case study which will help the understanding level of this situation ABU YUUSUF “Somaliland has been blighted for months by devastating drought hosts around 500 Yemeni refugees who made the journey across the Gulf of Aden from the war-torn homeland to the shores of self-declared republic. The region which claimed it self-independent country in 1991 but still recognized only as an autonomous region of Somalia by the international community had overflow a Yemen refugees and the Yemenis are poorer day after day.


The 20 families that live with Abu Yusuf fled their home town of Aden on Yemeni coasts some of the family members are missing in the Somaliland towns others are died with a diseases and hunger the battle raged between the government and Houthi rebels during the first half of 2015.

“Aden has been under the loosely control of the government since July 2015 but the vulnerable groups are stuck in Somaliland unable to work or to return in Yemen just they are suffer famines. The journey costs around 100$for a child and adults 150$ we come here with zero manner no anything that we can depend. With no income and aid money to the three families totally just 280$ how it can cover a three family needs its stimulating the pain of ours not healing the problem. I can’t even think of what will happen to us to the coming days just we pray Allah if we don’t get out here we may day hunger. There are a few families that had al dumeni families which are skilled and work the city but most of us are encounter a severe life situation Ubu Yusuf said Yemeni refuges in Hargeisa”.


  1. Methodology of the paper


Observation, as the name implies, is a way of collecting data through observing. Observation data collection method is classified as a participatory study, because the researcher has to immerse his or herself in the setting where her respondents are, while taking notes and/or recording.

The data I have collected as I was observing the participants of the observation, they weren’t aware of it because I wanted my data to be more reliable insights from the people. I did the naturalist observation approach to avoid the participants to exaggerate things to and being lied to. As I was doing this observation, I realized that a lot of these people don’t have adequate house or shelter they get back to, on top of that these people don’t have a job or work they could pay for their expenses, so even if they do get a good house it’s hard to pay for the rent as it will be too much for non-working Arab refugees. The whole day they spend their day under the sun begging on the streets and markets to get something they could eat and spend the day. They are various for Arab families some are the parent only, while some are more than four people in the family including the parents. It’s a lot harder for them to look for jobs because they basically run for their lives and come to this country to survive from the war that’s going on in their countries, which means that they didn’t possibly have the time to grab their degrees and similar stuff which could have helped them to have more professional work.

The Arab refugees in Hargeisa city are more vulnerable in every aspect of their life, they are in rent houses with no economic revenue, as well as, they don’t depend anyone for their house rental. This is the most important factor these Arab refugee in Hargeisa needs. These refugee are neglected and no fully or sustained humanitarian aid were given to them, thus the government does not give them any asylum, they just live without aid. Also the INGOs do not cover their needs of this people, they might gave out few things to then but that is not enough for them. Housing or shelter is not the only problem they face, there are so many different problems they encounter within Hargeisa, such as, lack of education, lack of health, unemployment, discrimination, and different other abuses, these are most common problems they suffer.

The Arab refugees in Hargeisa most of them come from two countries Syria and Yemen, these two countries are different from our country in socio-economic activities and they worked in different ways they used to do it when they were in their countries. As I define their differences the Yemen refugees are skilful people they work much income jobs that they survive their life such house decoration, restaurants, building houses, wilding, barbershops cafeteria and so many different jobs in Hargeisa, Somaliland. I also cited a recent interview with the Chairman of the National Displacement Agency which stated that not all refugees in the country aren’t registered whether they are Arabs or not. In the same interview, asked him why as mandated Agency and government were settle and solve many Arab refugees on the streets of Hargiesa, who were begging on all the day, He accused Somaliland some citizens of being behind the incident and using it as a lucrative business. He said.” We have found out that there are people who open the numbers with a ZAAD services and Edahab Money Transfer and give to the poor people who have agreed to work together in this system and raise money,”

When it comes Syrians they don’t know anything just burger mosques, big shops and market in towns they don’t have any skill to survive because when they were in their countries didn’t learn any kind of skill or something that they can work. This is a big different also the Yemeni people are quick learners or we can say they adapt the society they are live within and understand their culture they are open minded while Syrians are not like that they can’t adhere the environment they didn’t try to learn something they are just terrified to adjust to news places. The language is another factor that is challenging for these refugees because they speak in Arabic and we speak Somali, so it’s difficult to adjust to the new language or even get to school, because schools in Hargeisa, teach things in Somali and English and all of the teachers explain things in Somali language which is difficult for Arab refugees, the only way they could learn Somali language is to interact with the Somali community and be part of them.

  1. Conclusion and Recommendations

Finally, I would like to summarize in this brief article on the challenges faced by Arab refugees in Hargiesa Somaliland that all the information I have mentioned above is important and well-done which was mostly interviews and observations. I also suggest that all these people, whether those who have something to survive and those who don’t have anything, all they needed multifaceted support and I will list here some important things that I think are most needed in order to make a living and survive and make interaction to the people and they are follows.

Provide psychosocial support: Many humanitarian agencies and refugees involved and acknowledged the need for psychosocial support and trauma counselling for refugees, arising from the dangers they faced before leaving their home country, difficulties on their journey and hardships they now face in camps or their destination country.

Share what you can, in the right language: Refugees and agencies stressed the need for more humanitarian workers who speak relevant languages. Humanitarian agencies should try and respond to the refugees’ desire to know any available official information on border and legal issues, however little, even if it clarifies that there will be no planned movement for the next coming years. Receiving information and realistic timelines would enable refugees to make decisions and help them tolerate their present hardship.

Somaliland Refugee Law enforcement: I recommended to enforce the Somaliland refugee law due to high need to the protection and the respect of the various refugees stayed in the country.

Improve communication between refugees and agencies, via people who speak the right language: The research painted the importance of face-to-face communication in building trust with refugees, and was the preferred statement method among refugees. As well as providing accurate, up-to-date information and answering people’s questions, these focal points could help represent refugees’ needs and concerns to agencies.

Strengthen the capacity of NGOs and volunteers to communicate effectively with refugees: Refugees need people who could help them navigate the asylum process, their rights and their options. Agency representatives suggested training NGOs and volunteers about how to meet information and communication needs on these topics. This could help equip them to share complex information on rights and asylum in a simple, accurate way and in appropriate languages.

Support relevant government bodies to communicate effectively with refugees: Refugees wanted to receive information from official sources, which is beyond the control of humanitarian agencies. However, agencies could support governments to help them create more effective communication on these issues.




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As outlined in the 1951 refugee convention; see: http://www.unhcr.org/3d58e13b4.pdf [Accessed 5 July 2016].

UNHCR office Hargeisa.

About Author

Abdirahman Ali, Humanitarian and Social Worker, Human Rights Activist, Democracy and Development commentator. 


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

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