UN urges Puntland to stop expulsions of Somalis
The United Nations refugee agency Friday urged the northern Somali breakaway region of Puntland to halt the expulsion of Somali refugees, saying around 900 had been pushed back this week alone.
The Somalis had fled fighting in the central part of the country but Puntland authorities on Tuesday and Wednesday pushed them back to their conflict-ridden homeland, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"We are calling on the Puntland authorities to halt these push-backs," said UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.
"It is UNHCR's view that people fleeing southern and central Somalia are in need of international protection and that involuntary returns to that part of the country place people's lives at grave risk," said Fleming.
The spokeswoman said it was unclear if the decision of Puntland authorities to deport Somalis on Tuesday and Wednesday was linked to security fears following deadly attacks in Uganda earlier this month.
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab movement claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Kampala that ripped through crowds watching the football World Cup final on July 11, killing 76 people.
Fleming noted that "against the background of recent terrorist attacks, we have noted growing numbers of incidents of xenophobia, round-ups and deportations of displaced Somalis," notably in Kenya.
Somalia has been blighted by relentless civil war since 1991, plunging the Horn of Africa country into disarray and poverty and increasing instability throughout the region.
More than 1.4 million Somalis are displaced, and another 600,000 have sought refuge outside the country.
© 2010 AFP