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More Somali Refugees Return Home as Conditions in Yemen Worsen

Somali refugee Saeed Salim Sa’ad Barshaid prepares to return home on a ferry from Aden, Yemen. (UNHCR/Ahmed Abdullah Bahulais)
Somali refugee Saeed Salim Sa’ad Barshaid prepares to return home on a ferry from Aden, Yemen. (UNHCR/Ahmed Abdullah Bahulais)

A boat with 125 Somali refugees fleeing insecurity in Yemen arrived in the Somali port of Berbera Thursday. The voyage was organized by the U.N. refugee agency and partners in cooperation with authorities in Yemen and Somalia.

This is the 33rd departure of Somali refugees from Yemen since the U.N. refugee agency and humanitarian partners began the so-called Assisted Spontaneous Return program in 2017. To date, nearly 4,300 Somali refugees have returned home.

Yemen is still hosting a quarter-million Somali refugees, who fled there to escape conflict and drought in their country. The security they once found in Yemen has vanished. Four years of civil war in Yemen has turned that country into what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Refugees are feeling increasingly insecure and fearful for their lives as conditions in Yemen deteriorate.

U.N. refugee spokesman Babar Baloch says many refugees face hardship and lack access to basic services. He tells VOA they feel insecure and want to leave.

“With the conflict going on in Yemen … refugees have been targeted," he said. "We just recently last week announced civilian casualties, including refugees. Life is becoming tough and as the situation inside Yemen is worsening, many of these refugees are coming forward to be helped to return home.”

Inside Yemen, Baloch says the UNHCR and partners help Somali refugees gather the documents they need, and provide transportation and financial support to facilitate their journey home.

When they arrive in Somalia, he says the returnees receive assistance to re-integrate into their communities and to help them get started in their new lives.

Baloch says it is up to the returnees where they want to go. Some go to home villages. Others find it is too unsafe and go to Mogadishu to see if they can start a new life.

He acknowledges that Somalia still has its own problems with conflict, instability and drought — the factors that drove many Somalis to Yemen in the first place.