UNHCR urges continued protection for asylum seekers from Somalia

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The United Nations refugee agency has renewed its appeal for countries not to forcibly return Somalis back to their country.

UNHCR says although security has improved in some parts of southern and central Somalia including the capital Mogadishu, armed conflict and human rights abuses mainly perpetrated by the Al Shabaab militant group continues.

The agency says although more than 33,000 Somalis returned home in 2013, more than 43,000 sought asylum in neighbouring countries and elsewhere.

UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune Kaba said thousands of civilians continue to be displaced both within and outside Somalia.

She added that displaced women were particularly vulnerable with consistent reports of widespread rape with perpetrators remaining unpunished.

"UNHCR's new guidelines underscore the need for governments to assess applications for international protection by Somalis from Southern and Central Somalia on the basis of reliable, up-to-date information about the situation in Mogadishu and other areas. Notice needs to be taken of the impact of the armed conflict on civilians. Civilians are at risk of being killed or wounded in crossfire between government forces and Al-Shabaab militants as well as by bomb attacks and as bystanders in targeted attacks. Even in Mogadishu, nominally under government control with the backing of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Al-Shabaab has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to stage deadly attacks."  (48)

UNHCR estimates that there are more than 1.1 million Somali refugees worldwide.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Geneva.

Duration 1’47″

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