SOMALIA: Government halts IDP evictions

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Somali government has stopped evicting internally displaced persons (IDPs) from government buildings, in a bid to stem displacement in the capital, Mogadishu, an official told IRIN on 26 September.

Dahir Mohamed Burale, the commissioner of the National Refugee Commission of Somalia (NRCS), said it had convinced the government it should provide alternative accommodation for the IDPs before evicting them.

"We have succeeded in halting the evictions until we can come up with an alternative resettlement scheme," he added. "There have been no evictions by the government since 31 August."

He said the agency had been sensitising the government departments involved about the rights of the IDPs and "our efforts are bearing fruit".

The government has allocated land to resettle the IDPs in Darkenley, southwest Mogadishu, and the NRCS "is now conducting discussions with the clans in the area to make sure there are no frictions between those to be resettled and the host community".

He said once the host communities were on board, the agency would issue title deeds to the IDPs and "then make an appeal for assistance to build houses for them".

Burale said long-term IDPs were the agency's first priority: "Our aim is to first resettle them."

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of IDPs fleeing insecurity and violence in Mogadishu, thousands of other residents and long-term IDPs - displaced at the start of the civil war in the early 1990s - are reported to have been evicted from their homes in government and public buildings, according to a civil society source.

He said some of the IDPs had been living in public buildings for nearly 16 years. "Some of them know no other home," he added.

He said there were usually two reasons for the evictions: to remove people from a government building and to remove IDPs living near senior government officials.

"The excuse is always ‘we need the building’, but underneath they don’t want them living close to them, mostly for security reasons," the civil society source added.

Meanwhile, more families continue to be displaced in the city.

"Yesterday [25 September] hundreds of families fled the Towfiq, Arafat [north Mogadishu] and Gubta [northwest] areas," said a local resident.

The renewed movement of people is caused by increased clashes, in recent days, between Ethiopian-backed government forces and insurgents, he said.

Violence in Mogadishu has driven hundreds of thousands of civilians from the city this year, forcing them to live in squalid camps on the outskirts of the capital, where they have limited access to food and water, and lack shelter, medical and sanitation facilities.

Source: IRIN