The U.N. refugee and migration agencies have helped 116 Somali refugees return home from war-torn Yemen, although conditions in parts of Somalia remain unsafe.
The boat, which sailed from Aden, Yemen on Saturday arrived in the port of Berbera in Somalia the day after. Among its passengers were female heads of households, several students hoping to resume their educations, and a critically ill patient traveling with his family.
Since the so-called assisted spontaneous return program began in 2017, the U.N. refugee agency and International Organization for Migration have helped more than 2,000 Somali refugees return to their homes of origin.
UNHCR spokesman William Spindler says the Somali refugees are living under precarious conditions and, like the Yemenis themselves, are not receiving adequate aid and protection.
“Refugees are vulnerable to early marriage, child labor, detention and to the risk of dangerous onward movement. These circumstances have added to the urgent need for UNHCR to increase humanitarian support, mitigate risks and find lasting solutions for these people.”
Spindler tells VOA that UNHCR is not promoting returns to Somalia because they are not sustainable.
But he says his agency is responding to demands from refugees for help to return home because the alternative of remaining in Yemen is worse.
“From our perspective, the situation in Somalia is far from safe. But, at the same time, Yemen, as we know is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with outbreaks of disease, with food insecurity and with an ongoing conflict that has displaced millions of people.”
When the refugees arrive in Somalia, Spindler says they receive a cash grant and an allowance, as well as household items, food assistance from the World Food Program, and an education allowance for primary school children.