Skip to content. | Skip to navigation


Somalis (in Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia)


Having fled anarchy, violence, and famine, nearly 800,000 Somali refugees are registered in the region, 423,164 of whom are in Kenya, 191,500 in Yemen, and 91,100 in Ethiopia. With Somalia remaining the most notoriously failed state in today's world, and thousands continuing to flee hunger and violence in their home country, there is little prospect of Somali refugees returning in safety and dignity.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled insecurity at home since the early 1990s, when the Somali state collapsed and factional violence ensued. Civil war had begun in 1988, when various groups launched an insurrection against Siyad Barre's authoritarian leadership. Barre's regime was ousted in 1991, and different 'warlords' quickly established their control over bits and pieces of Somali territory. In the early 1990s, the combination of drought and famine led to a massive humanitarian crisis and widespread displacement. From 1996 to 2005, Somaliland and Puntland stabilised under autonomous administrations, and pockets of relative stability emerged in south-central Somalia. In 2005-2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) grew in strength and expanded its control in southern Somalia. While many perceived its impact as constructive, regional actors and Western governments were hostile to the idea of a strong Islamist state. Consequently, Ethiopia intervened, re-instating the powerless internationally-sponsored Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu. In the aftermath, the ICU's hard-line militia al Shabaab began an intensely violent struggle against the TFG, targeting civilians and UN peacekeepers indiscriminately. Widespread violence and a severe drought in 2011 led to a renewed displacement crisis.

In recent years, Somali refugees have been securitised by host governments, owing to a fear of al Shabaab's activities in exile. The protracted nature of their displacement has moreover led to conflict between refugees and the local population, resulting from competition over scarce resources. The Kenyan government pursued a dual policy toward Somali refugees, allowing them to access Kenyan territory while strictly requiring them to live in remote camps close to the Somali border. Security in these camps is often unsatisfactory, as both Somali and Kenyan bandits further victimise Somali refugees. With the crisis in the Horn of Africa ongoing, a durable solution to the plight of Somali refugees remains elusive.

Online Resources

Offline Resources

Relevant Organisations