Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Somali refugees, uprooted by war at home, must now flee Syria

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 23rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Somali refugees who at one time found shelter in the Arab League Nation of Syria are now being forced to relocate as their host country becomes engulfed in civil war. The Somali community in Syria is small, numbering only a few thousand. With daily bloodshed and bombings a daily fact of life there, the Somalis - already uprooted by the war in their African nation, are forced to find refuge somewhere else.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Somalia has been viewed by the international community as a failed state, following the ouster of former dictator Siad Barre in 1991. Somali civilians have since been put into the crosshairs between rival warlords, the interim government and al-Shabaab fighters with ties to al-Qaeda.

Somalis were relocated to Syria, where visas were not required for citizens from Arab League nations. The big drawback to Somali refugees in Syria was that the Syrian government did not grant work permits to the refugees. The refugees there had limited sources of income that went to buy food and pay rent, but some Somali refugees there did have access to higher education.

There are currently 3,000 registered Somalis living in Syria, which is a downturn from the previous 5,000 registered before the onset of the armed conflict.

"The Somali community in Syria consists mostly of women and children. Although some are fortunate enough to receive remittances from their families living abroad, the rest of us rely on aid from the U.N.," one Somali refugee says, now living in the United States in San Diego, California.

"We were welcomed in Syria. It was a great place for the Somali people," she says, recalling a time of peace and stability. "The kids were enrolled in school and there were no problems. Life was normal."

She also say that leaving behind friends she cared deeply about brought great sadness, even as she settled into her new life in the U.S.

"I can't be happy without feeling guilty. Just thinking about them [friends and neighbors] takes away my happiness . I pray for my neighbor of 20 years every day," she adds.

For the Somalis who remain in Syria, the wait to be transferred to another host country for the second time is raising fear and uncertainty.

Bob Montgomery, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in San Diego, says that there "certainly is a traumatic impact on people who have suffered and been through such an experience . There are still people there that are pending to come to the United States. A lot of them have to lay low until it is time for them to leave."

According to the UNHCR, "the incidence and severity of security and protection incidents affecting refugees rose perceptibly in mid-2012, with reported killings, kidnappings, domestic violence, threats, and harassment."

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)