Formal name: Somalia.
Estimated population: 9.2 million (2001 est.).
The roots of forced migration in contemporary Somalia lie in former colonial divisions, clan conflict and fierce competition over the economic and political resources of the post-colonial state. When Somalia gained independence in 1960 it was handicapped by a lack of political legitimacy and a weak economic base. Excessive militirisation and aid dependency, superpower patronage and the centralisation of control in the hands of the dictator, Siad Barre, was the pattern throughout the 1970s. The nationalisation of economic assets, the effects of a major drought in 1974, and of military defeat in 1978 in the Ogaden war resulted in the wholesale alienation of the population from the Barre regime. Armed opposition to Barre began in earnest in 1988 in north-west Somalia. Some 400,000 Somalis fled to Ethiopia and Djibouti as a result of the conflict. The overthrow of Barre in 1991 propelled Somalia into a prolonged period of civil war. At the height of the conflict in 1992 some 800,000 Somalis were refugees in neighbouring countries, and 2 million were internally displaced. Large numbers returned to their homes during the remainder of the decade, despite high levels of conflict in particular regions of the country.
Accompanying the dissolution of the Somali state has been a gradual process of regional reconstruction. Somaliland and Puntland in the north of the country are relatively stable and conflict-free. By contrast, areas of the southern regions are subject to violence and continued population displacement. In 2002 an estimated 350,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) remained in Somalia, the result of fifteen years of conflict and the continuing violence in the southern regions of the country. The formation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in 2000 has not, to date, resulted in peace. Renewed conflict has broken out over the legitimacy of the new regime.
The population displacement of the last two decades in Somalia is due to a complex combination of clan-based conflict, including the destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods as a weapon of war and to the effects of climatic change. Flooding and drought have produced famine and population displacement on a massive scale. In 1997 flooding forced 122,000 mainly Somali refugees to flee their camps in north-eastern Kenya. The floods made more than 200,000 homeless. Today Somalia is one of the principal refugee-producing countries in the world. It was amongst the top twenty countries of origin for asylum applications in twenty-eight mostly industrialised countries from January to June 2002. It was also amongst the top ten countries of origin for asylum applications to the European Union during the 1992-2001 period.
- CIA World Factbook 2002 http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/so.html
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum Statistics http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/statistics
- Library of Congress Country Reports http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sotoc.html