OVERVIEW of Somalia | Humanitarian situation | Persecuted populations | Potential risk profiles | Country of asylum information | Return to Southern and Central Somalia | Essential sources | Somalis in Canada – settlement experiences | Ethno-specific organizations and associations | Cultural profiles

OVERVIEW of Somalia

Capital: Mogadishu
Area: 637,657 km²
Population: 8,863,338 (2006 estimate)
Language(s): Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English
Religion(s): Sunni Muslim
Ethnic Group(s): Somali – 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali – 15%

See, [accessed March 12, 2018].

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Humanitarian situation

See UNHCR Emergency Response at 30 November 2017 [accessed March 26, 2018].

Civilian Casualties: The armed conflict in Somalia continues to be the leading cause of civilian casualties. Asylum Research Consultancy (ARC), Situation in South and Central Somalia (including Mogadishu), 25 January 2018 [accessed 16 February 2018]. Accurate civilian casualty figures are challenging to determine, largely due to continued insecurity: Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018 – Somalia, 18 January 2018 [accessed 16 February 2018]. Although Al-Shabaab reportedly has largely lost its capacity to act as a conventional military force, its increasing use of asymmetric attacks has provided a more complex challenge to AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in Southern and Central Somalia.

The Security Situation and its Impact on Civilians in Disputed Area Affected by Fighting or Armed Clashes: Areas of Southern and Central Somalia have improved to some extent compared to the situation prior to 2010. However, the situation in Somalia continues to be qualified as a non-international armed conflict. Armed clashes continue outside of Mogadishu and in rural areas in Southern and Central Somalia which remain under Al-Shabaab control. Further, areas under the control of the Somali Federal Government, including Mogadishu, are often affected by attacks and other forms of violence. A number of military operations in Southern and Central Somalia continue to result in civilian casualties, with civilians being killed and wounded in the crossfire of armed clashes and by improvised explosive and grenade attacks. See UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Protection of Civilians: Building the Foundation for Peace, Security and Human Rights in Somalia, December 2017 [accessed 16 February 2018].

Al-Shabaab continues to commit grave abuses against civilians including killings of prominent peace activists, community leaders, clan elders and their family members for their role in peace-building, and beheadings of people accused of “spying for” and collaborating with Somali national forces and affiliated militias. Other reported violations against civilians, include: disappearances; restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of movement and religion; restricting access to humanitarian assistance; rape and other acts of gender-based violence such as forced marriages; as well as conscription and use of child soldiers. See, Human Rights Watch, Somalia: Al-Shabaab Demanding Children, 14 January 2018 [accessed 16 February 2018].

Over the past decade, following the collapse of the Somali state in the early 1990’s, Somalia and its peoples have endured armed conflict, violations of human rights, and natural disasters resulting in famine, leaving a large proportion of its population displaced and in need of aid. The specific causes of displacement and forms of persecution are multifaceted although discernable trends can be identified for the purpose of status determination. Adding to the complexity is the variation in conditions and instability in various regions. As a result, guidelines for assessing eligibility of asylum-seekers from southern central Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland require each region to be assessed separately.

Internal and External Displacement and Returns: due to human rights abuses, thousands of civilians continue to be displaced within in Somalia’s borders. The 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview predicts that over 6.2 million people, half of the population of Somalia, will need humanitarian assistance and protection due to the ongoing drought and conflict. See, UNHCR Fact Sheet, Somalia 1-30 November 2017, [accessed 16 February 2018].

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Persecuted populations

As a result of the longstanding armed conflict, insecurity, and human rights violations throughout southern and central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland, UNHCR has recognized the need for protection of Somali asylum-seekers. Refugees from these regions may qualify for protection under the 1951 convention, depending on the circumstances of their case. Furthermore, UNHCR has encouraged the use of the Group-based approach to protection in instances where Somali refugees arrive in large numbers, demonstrate protection needs with a similar pattern in their claims, and where individual status determination would surpass local capacities. The agency also advises the use of screening mechanisms to identify grounds for exclusion from refugee status when applying the Group-based protection approach. Currently in southern and central Somalia, UNHCR considers there to be no internal flight or relocation alternative available. In Puntland and Somaliland internal flight or relocation alternatives should be assessed based on the individual case.

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Potential risk profiles

  • Individuals associated with, or (perceived as) supportive of the SFG and the international community, including the AMISOM forces;
  • Individuals (perceived as) contravening Islamic Sharia and decrees imposed by Al-Shabaab, including converts from Islam, other “apostates” and moderate Islamic scholars who have criticized Al-Shabaab extremism;
  • Individuals (perceived as) opposing the SFG and related interests and individuals (suspected of) supporting armed anti-Government groups;
  • Individuals in certain professions such as journalists; members of the judiciary; humanitarian workers and human rights activists; teachers and staff of educational facilities; business people and other people (perceived to be) of means;
  • Individuals (at risk of being) forcibly recruited;
  • Members of minority groups such as members of the Christian religious minority and members of minority clans;
  • Individuals belonging to a clan engaged in a blood feud;
  • Women and girls;
  • Children;
  • Victims and persons at risk of trafficking;
  • Sexual and/or gender non-conforming persons (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals);
  • Persons with a mental disability or suffering from mental illness.

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Country of asylum information

The link below provides for refugees from Somalia by country of asylum: Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and Eritrea. [accessed March 12, 2018].

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Return to Southern and Central Somalia

UNHCR cautions States to refrain from forcibly returning any persons to areas of Southern and Central Somalia that are affected by military action as these remain fragile and insecure after military action or remain under control of non-State groups. Somalis from these areas are eligible for international refugee protection under the 1951 Convention and in the African Union. The 1969 OAU Convention should be applied as a number of Somalis meet the criteria for refugee status.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Tripartite Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Kenya, the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Governing the Voluntary Repatriation of Somali Refugees Living in Kenya, 2013, 10 November 2013.

UNHCR, International Protection Considerations with Regard to People Fleeing Southern and Central Somalia, 17 January 2014.

Norway: Landinfo – Country of Origin Information Centre, Somalia: Relevant social and economic conditions upon return to Mogadishu, 1 April 2016 [accessed 16 February 2018].

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Essential sources

More information about the conditions in Somalia can be found in the following documents:

Somalia 2019 Human Rights Practices Report U.S. Department of State [accessed July 2020].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Country of Origin Information Report – Somalia, 19 May 2010 [accessed 16 February 2018].

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Somalis in Canada – settlement experiences

Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Somalia and Canada: Somali-Canadian Associations in Canada, including their background, history, and connections with Somalia; whether they can establish the identity of Somalis and the techniques used for this purpose (2013), 29 November 2013, ZZZ104663.E , available at: [accessed 16 February 2018].

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Ethno-specific organizations and associations

Disclaimer: RSTP is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse these organizations. Their activities are not necessarily those of RSTP.

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Cultural profiles [accessed March 12, 2018].

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