The Special Envoy for the Somali refugee situation, Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey, led a high-level delegation in Eritrea accompanied by the Deputy Director of Division of International Protection, Ms. Shahrzad Tadjbakhsh and the Head of the Legal and Policy Unit of the Regional Bureau of Africa (RBA), Mr. Leonard Zulu.
Ambassador Affey led a successful engagement with the government of the State of Eritrea (GoSE) on the issuance of exit visas to the Somali refugees who have found solutions particularly through voluntary repatriation or third world resettlement.
The Special Envoy expressed UNHCR's commitment to the GoSE towards providing solutions for refugees and support to host communities in line with the New York Declaration's Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and the Global Compacts of Refugees and Migration.
While addressing partners and government officials last week in Eritrea, the Special Envoy expressed his gratitude to the government of the State of Eritrea for their hospitality extended to the refugees for the last 25 years. "There is need for implementation of the Nairobi Declaration and its Plan of Action on finding durable solutions for Somali refugees," he added.
The Special Envoy highlighted that partner agencies, member states, UN agencies and relevant stakeholders should play a crucial role in assisting and supporting the regional application of the new refugee response approach referring to the CRRF and the Global Compact for Refugees.
The Ambassador further advocated for solutions realization and resource mobilization in line with commitments to responsibility sharing for refugees. He noted with concern that the Somali refugee situation is not only massive and protracted but has lasted for over two decades affecting generations.
"As of May 2018, the State of Eritrea has been hosting 2,258 refugees, 2,153 refugees from Somalia and 105 refugees from other nationalities for more than two decades with UNHCR support and funding." He said.
He restated the need to ensure that refugees are provided with adequate humanitarian support, protection, opportunities for asylum and resettlement and enhanced efforts towards realization of appropriate durable solutions and the need for the international community to continue demonstrating solidarity and responsibility-sharing.
"Humanitarian admission programs, opportunities for skilled migrants, labour mobility and education should be provided to enhance self-reliance, reduce the risk of poverty and help refugees contribute to their host communities while preparing them for an eventual return so that they can participate in the reconstruction of their countries," said Ambassador Affey.
During the various meetings, all the partners and government officials welcomed the mandate of the Special Envoy and expressed their gratitude to UNHCR for the continued support to the people of concern towards finding durable solutions.
While visiting Umkulu refugee camp, Ambassador Affey acknowledged the warm welcome by the Somali refugees. "There is no honor in remaining in a refugee camp for over 25 years," said Ambassador Affey describing the trauma and stigma that accompanies life in exile after speaking to refugee men and women who have been in the camp for the past 25 years.
He added that some Somali refugees have expressed interest in eventually returning home however, most of them prefer to wait until the situation in the country stabilizes although the situation in Somalia is not yet conducive for large scale voluntary repatriation, UNHCR is providing assistance to those individuals who have made the decision to return.
The Special Envoy for the Somali refugee situation noted that UNHCR will continue to keep a high-level focus on the maintenance of protection space and realization of appropriate durable solutions for refugees.
"We cannot deliver protection, empowerment and solutions for refugees by ourselves. We all need to contribute at the local, regional and global level," emphasized Ambassador Affey.
For more information, please contact:
NAIROBI: Nosim Lemayian | LEMAYIAN@unhcr.org | +254 (20) 422 2215
ERITREA: Monica Modici | MODICI@unhcr.org | +291 1 182484 (2102)