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Somalia Refugee Crisis Explained

map of SomaliaOver the last 30 years, hundreds of thousands of people have fled Somalia because of political instability and a dangerous civil war that broke out in the 1990s. Today over 750,000 Somali refugees remain in neighboring countries and over 2.6 million Somalis are internally displaced in Somalia.

Here's What You Need to Know:

1. Where have Somali refugees fled to?

2. Is the number of people fleeing Somalia increasing or decreasing?

3. How long do most Somali refugees live in refugee camps?

4. What is happening to the next generation of Somalis born in refugee camps?

5. How are Somali refugees changing Americans' perceptions of refugees?

Where have Somali refugees fled to?

The vast majority of Somali refugees are living in neighboring countries Kenya (256,186), Yemen (250,500) and Ethiopia (192,082). Despite having internal displacement and refugee crises of their own, countries like Yemen and Ethiopia have a long-standing history of welcoming refugees from Somalia. 

Somali mother sitting on bus with her baby

Is the number of people fleeing Somalia increasing or decreasing?

People began fleeing Somalia in the early 1990s and by the end of 2013 there were over 970,000 Somali refugees in the world. But, fortunately, this number is decreasing. Between 2014 and 2019, over 90,000 Somali refugees safely returned home to Somalia where they have received assistance from UNHCR to help them rebuild their lives.

However, while Somalia is much safer than it used to be, life in Somalia is still difficult. Food insecurity persists throughout the country due to dry conditions in the north and east and abnormal rainfall, which has caused flooding in the south and central regions.

old Somali man with beard

How long do most Somali refugees live in refugee camps?

Refugees from Somalia have been living in refugee camps for nearly 30 years. Many have lived most or all of their lives in these camps. This is called a protracted refugee situation. UNHCR defines a protracted refugee situation as one in which 25,000 or more refugees from the same nationality have been in exile for five consecutive years or more in a given host country. An estimated 78% of all refugees live in protracted refugee situations like this.

Somali girl in refugee camp

What is happening to the next generation of Somalis born in refugee camps?

Because Somalis have been displaced for generations, many Somali children have been born in refugee camps. These children have never known a life free from exile, but UNHCR is working to ensure they still have the brightest future possible. Somali refugee children attend school and have the opportunity to go to college. And new laws and agreements, like those established with the government of Ethiopia, are allowing Somali refugees to have livelihoods and better integrate with their local communities.

Somali school girls

How are Somali refugees changing Americans' perceptions of refugees?

Somali refugees, like Mustafa, who have been resettled in the United States are changing the way Americans think about refugees. Mustafa is helping breakdown barriers by bringing resettled refugees and their neighbors together for family dinners, where families often discover they have more in common than they thought.

Displaced people from Somalia need your help...

Monthly giving is the most effective way to help people living in exile and returning to their homes after years of displacement. Start making a lifesaving difference today. Please become USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.

Jan 7 2020
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