Somalia

Disasters and refugee protection – a socio-legal case study from Yemen

Every year millions of people are forced to flee their homes in the context of climate change and disasters. Their needs and rights are unclear. This paper presents and discusses some findings from a socio-legal case study exploring the rights of disaster-affected Somalis and Ethiopians in Yemen. The first main findings relate to the challenges that Ethiopians face in accessing, and succeeding with, the formal asylum process. This is discussed in light of legal aid theory and research as well as research on credibility assessments. Another category of findings relates to interactions of local, religious law and international law. This is discussed in light of legal pluralism, which helps in identifying an emancipatory potential. While complex, dynamic and depending on regional politics and other factors, the way Islamic law is applied - and influences other bodies of law - seems to ensure better protection than the 1951 Refugee Convention alone. This potential should be further explored and possibly expanded in order to strengthen the rights of people displaced in the context of climate change and disasters more generally.

Read the full conference paper
here.

New paper on "climate refugees"

A paper of mine that was recently published in the International Journal of Social Science Studies, discusses the protection of Somalis who were displaced to Kenya and Egypt during the 2011 and 2012 drought. The full paper is available online here.

Abstract:
Natural hazard-related disasters, including those associated with climate change, displace millions of people. Those displaced across international state borders face particular challenges with regards to legal status and rights protection. This paper discusses to what extent, and how, this group of displaced people are protected, and indicates how their protection can be further strengthened. The discussion draws on case studies of Somalis displaced to Kenya and Egypt during the 2011 and 2012 drought. Appreciation of the contextual vulnerability in disasters and the multi-causality of displacement can, and should, inform the interpretation of the refugee concept(s). In Kenya, for example, all Somalis were given refugee status on a prima facie group basis due to the presence of generalised violence as well as drought in their home country. In Egypt, the decision-makers operated with a different understanding and practice, and many Somalis risked falling outside the refugee definition(s). Beyond getting a formal refugee status recognition, however, there may also be protection issues related to formal law such as restrictions on inter alia the right to work and freedom of movement, as well as issues related to operational capacity and resources such as lack of shelter and security. A series of extra-legal factors must be given due consideration both to ensure that the protection capacity of existing law is employed to its fullest and that new legal and policy developments become effective.

New paper on Somali "climate refugees" in Kenya and Egypt

While most East African countries were badly affected by drought in 2011, the situation was almost beyond imagination in Somalia with famine being declared in several regions. It was the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world in 2011 and Africa’s worst food security crisis since Somalia’s 1991 and 1992 famine. Throughout 2011, large numbers of destitute agro-pastoralists and others fled the country in search of assistance. This study explores the experiences of, and responses to, some of the Somalis displaced to Kenya and Egypt.

“Gaps in Geneva, gaps on the ground: case studies of Somalis displaced to Kenya and Egypt during the 2011 drought”, New Issues in Refugee Research, UNHCR, December 2012.