7 July 2012

East Africa: Zanzibar 'Refugees' Return From Somalia

A GROUP of Tanzanians (Zanzibaris) who had lived in Somalia as refugees for over eleven years returned home yesterday and were received at the Zanzibar Abeid Aman Karume International Airport.

Two planes of the UN humanitarian air services carrying the 38 Zanzibaris 'refugees' including children, accompanied by officials of UNHRC, landed at the airport at around 14.30 hrs local time.

We are happy to be back home. We voluntarily decided to return home," said Mr Mohamed Adam Suleiman from Ziwani village in Pemba, adding that "I crossed to Somalia in 2001, after the political violence. I decided to marry and came with my wife with two children.

He said there were some Zanzibaris who were still reluctant to return home. "They registered to return home, but later changed their mind after the May 27 unrest linked to the Islamic group of UAMSHO.

Mr Abdallah Ahmed who also married a Somali told reporters that they decided to return home because they were convinced Zanzibar "is peaceful and stable."

Some children were crying at the airport, as a handful of family members turned-up to welcome them home."I am happy to see my son back home, I thought I would never see him again," expressed Khadija Omar.

The news that Zanzibaris from Somalia were returning home yesterday did not spread, so the turn-up at the airport was small.

According to the UNHCR Public Information Associate Mr Austin Makani, all the Zanzibar 'refugees' who have lived in Somali capital Mogadishu since 2001 will join their families today (Saturday) on both Unguja and Pemba Islands, under the supervision of the UNHCR officials.

Each family of the returned Zanzibaris have been given funds to enable them settle within four months.The Zanzibari refugees arrived in Mogadishu back in 2001 following unrest in the islands due to dispute of the elections results of the 2000 general elections. Many returned home, but some managed to cross to EU countries.

Those who fled the violence after elections went to Kenya, where they were placed in Dadaab in the arid north, the world's largest refugee camp.Some later returned home on their own, but others travelled elsewhere, with a few hundreds ending up in Somalia, eking out an impoverished living as barbers, beggars, fishermen or as labourers.

Most set up home in a crumbling and bullet-scarred building, a government ministry building abandoned during the two decades of war in the city, but were relocated after officials reclaimed the site.

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