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 Wednesday 03 October 2007
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SOMALIA-YEMEN: 500 Benadir families seek resettlement in a third country

Photo: Muhammad al-Jabri/IRIN
Benadiris Yusuf and Kalthoum live with their three children in one small room in Sana'a, Yemen
SANAA, 25 April 2007 (IRIN) - Batoul Abdul-Rahman, 85, witnessed much conflict and persecution in the many years she lived in her home country, Somalia. She fled to Yemen in 1992, seeking a better life, but has had to endure miserable conditions in the impoverished Arabian nation.

“My life has become a long wait. We are awaiting the unknown. The sea has thrown us to this place to be received by no one but misery,” she said.

Unable to move because of a medical condition, Batoul lives in one room with her daughter and nine grandchildren. The room is four meters in length and three in width. “Destiny has confined me to this room for the past three years,” Batoul said.

Batoul’s family is one of 500 ‘Benadir’ families from the southern coastal region of Somalia, including Mogadishu, of the same name who have lived in Yemen since 1992.

“They fled en masse from their homeland after they experienced some of the worst forms of persecution by the dominant clans during the course of ethnic disorder in 1991,” Abdul-Qader Mao Omar, deputy head of the Benadir Community in Sana’a, told IRIN.

The Benadir are an ethnic group in Somalia with roots in ancient Arabia, Persia, and south and central Asia. They are not ethnically related to the Somali people but are descended from immigrants, specialists say. Benadirs have a long history as merchants and artisans.

During the Somalia’s civil war, which began in 1991, Benadir clans did not take up arms and were not aligned to any warring clan.

“The Benadirs are people of peace, and when the war broke out in 1991, we were seen as a minority as we didn't make use of arms,” said Omar, who holds a PhD in economics from an Italian university.

In Yemen, they are scattered in the provinces of Sana’a, Aden, Taiz, al-Hudeidah and al-Mukalla. Because of the poor conditions they live in, they have been demanding that they be resettled in a third country.

Living in misery

“We have been living in misery and our future has been gloomy since we arrived in Yemen. We call on international humanitarian organisations to help us resettle in a third country,” said Mohammed Abdu Noor, a Benadiri living in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

The Benadirs in Yemen say that they should be recognised as Benadirs and not treated as Somali refugees as they did not fight during the civil war but fled to Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.

“Those who fled to Yemen were unlucky, while those who fled to other countries have been resettled in developed countries like the US and Canada just because they were recognised as Benadir," said Yunus Abdi Noor, another Benadiri in Yemen. “My sister fled to Kenya and was resettled in the US. We are also unable to contact our relatives there as they don't know anything about us here in Yemen.”

''We have been living in misery and our future has been gloomy since we arrived in Yemen. We call on international humanitarian organisations to help us resettle in a third country.''
Benadir families in Yemen depend on menial jobs, with most of their women working as house cleaners. Omar said children are unable to study as parents cannot afford school fees. Housing, health and social standards are very low for them, he added.

Yusuf Ali, a 32-year-old Benadir father of three, washes cars every day in Sana’a and said sometimes he earns a small amount of money and sometimes he comes home empty-handed.

His wife, Kalthoum Ali, works as a house cleaner to help pay rent for their home, which consists of just one small room and a toilet.

“My husband and I and our three children live in this cramped room. He and I leave it in the morning and we lock up our children until I return in the afternoon with some food I get from the house I work in,” Kalthoum said. “The only thing we own is the refugee card, which represents no hope. We are ready to live in any country except Yemen and Somalia,” she added.

A signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, Yemen is home to more than 100,000 refugees, mostly Somalis.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.