Information regarding refugees, refugee camps, the Somali Nation Refugee Commission and UNHCR in Somalia. [SOM2791]

The following is the response of the UNHCR office in Ottawa to inquiries put before them by the IRBDC.
1. Information regarding the process by which the Somali National Refugee Commission issues its documents.
Notes on Procedures for Determination of Refugee Status under International Instruments U. N. General Assembly, A/AC.96/INF.152/Rev.8, 12/9/89 provides a list of signatories and a review of procedures in each place. Although a standard procedure exists, there is no information regarding any possible deviation from the prescribed system in practice.
2. Information regarding the role of the UNHCR in this process.
Please refer to the above document for information. UNHCR usually fulfils its role although there is no information on the specifics.
3. Information on the organizations charged with running the refugee camps.
The Somali government operates them in co-operation with the UNHCR, while some have been contracted out to specific NGOs.
4. Information on determining which refugee camps are guarded.
The UNHCR states that in principle, none are guarded, in practice access is by no means universal at all times. During times of fighting, access can be especially problematic. Attached is a copy of the report of the Bureau for Refugee Programs with the U.S. State Department by Robert Gersony, Why Somalis Flee, a Synthesis of Accounts of Conflict Experiences in Northern Somalia by Somali Refugees, Displaced Persons and Others, August 1989. The report addresses the issue of refugees in light of the fighting around them.
5. What rights, if any , are accorded to those granted "refugee" status ?
There is no clear answer. Somalia is a signatory of the OAU Convention and has a lenient approach to granting refugee status. Within the African Convention, those within the camps are displaced persons rather than refugees in the traditional "convention" sense. The 1951 Convention states that these people are not statutory refugees and therefore their rights become a matter of interpretation.
6. What treatment is given by the Somali authorities to those accorded "refugee" status?
The armed conflict, particularly in N.W. Somalia in the spring of 1988 had involved some refugees in armed combat. It is also known that some people had been recruited from the camps. UNHCR is currently in the process of registering the refugees to better monitor them. However, this has proved difficult as access is often problematic. The fact that there is recruitment endangers their status as refugees. A better understanding of the overall situation is required as there is no direct answer to this question. Please refer to Why Somalis Flee, for further information on this topic.
7. Are there any individuals who are not given "refugee" documents, but who are kept in refugee camps?
In principle, "no", but it is impossible to assume that all 800,000 plus refugees have been given documents. In late 1988 there were some 834,000 refugees located mainly in Hiran, Gedo Northwest and Lower Shabelle. In 1988 there was an agreement to re-register all the refugees. Job Vanderveen, a UNHCR Ex-Protection Officer is currently in Somalia charged with registering thousands of refugees who want to be repatriated.
8. Who is prevented from circulating freely within refugee camps?
Although refugees are not prevented from circulating freely within camps, it depends upon the circumstances.
9. Are "refugees" with or without National Refugee Commission recognition given the right to reside in Somalia or to work there?
The UNHCR has no information on work permits, however their presence has to be recognized. Please refer to the document mentioned in question one.
10. Are "refugees" being forcibly conscripted now?
The UNHCR has no information on this currently. The High Commission had expressed concern that humanitarian aid had to be limited to those who were not involved with the conflict. This was a direct result of the forced conscription of some refugees.
11. What information is available regarding false or bought National Refugee documents?
The UNHCR is not competent to know or become involved in such activities.
12. Who sits on the National Commission and how is a determination made?
Please refer to the attached U.N. document.
13. What information is available on Somali non-compliance with international instruments?
As a third world country caught in the middle of a civil war, Somalia experiences corruption and non-compliance. However, Somalia should not be viewed as peculiar in this situation as the circumstances of other countries in similar states are no different.