Somali citizens among thousands recently deported from Saudi Arabia have failed to trace their families in Mogadishu, the capital, due to the frequent displacement caused by ongoing fighting between government troops and Islamist insurgents.
Somali officials have urged Saudi Arabia to halt the deportations, saying conditions in the Horn of Africa country remained dire, with no let-up in the conflict. In May, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said as many as 4,000 Somalis had been deported from Saudi Arabia over the previous year.
“Nobody should deport people to Mogadishu because it is sending them back to a deadly situation,” UNCHR Information Officer Roberta Russo told IRIN on 26 July. Earlier in the month, 270 Somalis described by Saudi officials as illegal immigrants were sent back.
“We call on Saudi authorities to harbour or give a hand to Somalis escaping the unrest as our other neighbouring countries have done,” Mohamed Omar Dalha, Somalia’s Minister for Rehabilitation and Social Affairs, told IRIN.
Ali Sheikh Yassin, an official of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Association, told IRIN: “We [urge] countries like Saudi Arabia, which is capable of hosting refugees, to treat them well and give them shelter and good hospitality. We know that Saudi Arabia has a better economy than even Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, which welcomed Somali refugees… It is not a good option to be deported to a volatile county like Somalia; the Saudi Arabian authorities should reconsider the deportations.”
Some of those deported are stranded in Mogadishu after they arrived and could not trace their families.
“I am confused, I don’t know where I’ll go from here, I hear my family fled to the town of Jowhar [90km north of Mogadishu] and I cannot even afford the bus fare to reach them; I did not take anything from my home in Saudi Arabia, I was empty-handed when I was arrested and sent back here,” Omar Kuluu, one of the returnees, told IRIN.
Fighting forced Kuluu to flee his home in Mogadishu’s Wardhigley district. He had been in Saudi Arabia for only five months when he was arrested.
Another immigrant, Mustafa Nuriye, washed cars on Saudi streets after arriving there four months ago.
“Now my journey has ended here at the airport, I keep wondering how I will survive in this city hardest hit by war and shelling,” Nuriye said. “A relative told me that my family had fled to Ellasha Biyaha [an IDP camp south of Mogadishu]; I have to look for them. The only problem on my way here was shortage of food; I am now hungry and penniless. I wish someone could help me reach my family as soon as possible.”
Vowing to try to return to Saudi Arabia, Nuriye said: “I do not plan on remaining here, I would rather die at sea or in the airport than remain here, where, as you can see, surviving is almost impossible. However, I don’t want to die, what I really want is peace and work. Even if I am caught 100 times, I will be back in Saudi Arabia one day.”
Madina Hassan, 20, who had been in Saudi Arabia for about a year, said she was employed as a domestic worker before her arrest.
“We were rounded up and put in a cell where we stayed for 20 days before we were repatriated,” she said. “We had so many problems in that cell; the stronger ones took the food of those who had little strength.” Hassan was originally from the Bondhere area of Mogadishu.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]