Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End the War – Photo Essay on the Somali Refugees

Rohit Jain

If I regain my country, I regain everything’, says a refugee. The years of fighting between rival warlords for gaining power forced millions of Somali to take shelter in other countries, mainly in neighboring countries of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Yemen. However, a few took refuge in India in the hope of safe life and a better future. Absence of rights and assistance and denial of access to durable solutions is a source of insecurity for refugees. Somali refugees find themselves with almost nothing here. Having been cut off from family and kin, with uncertainty and no hope, income or financial support, life seems to be utterly unbalanced. Refugees note, UNHCR is ‘our only hope and is supposed to help us, but it is is discouraging’. Most of the refugees find themselves resorting to voluntary repatriation as a last option, knowing fully well that conditions in Somalia are dangerous. A refugee says ‘God forbid, you do not face this problem; you should not be without country and rights’.

Gerad*,30, from Mogadishu, began crying while thinking about life in India as a refugee. He says “I have a dream to go home and reunite with my mother. I cannot keep running and running anymore with uncertainty of my life. I am 30 years old, and I have achieved nothing. I do not want durable solution for myself, but for my country’.*Identity of the refugee has not been revealed on request; he fears that if his identity is known, UNHCR may take any action against him.

Xasan*, at a tea stall is discussing his concerns; “We are facing two worst things: If we go back to Somalia, we get tortured or killed, and, if we remain here as a refugee, we have no rights, no shelter, no money and no future’.*Identity of the refugee has not been revealed on request.

Qadar*, 41, says “I had no idea about India. I knew only about Bollywood. However, when I came here, I only struggled. Since June 2010, I am homeless. I fled from Somalia just to escape from civil war, and smugglers or agents provided me the way to India. Now, when there is no hope for resettlement or good future, and, when you feel hungry, it is better to die from bullet. Therefore, I want to get back to Somalia”. * Name changed on request.

A refugee showing a copy of application to ICRC to be reunited with his children, who have been lost in civil war in Somalia.

Fowsiyo*, 61, has multiple illnesses. She says, “My last request to UNHCR is to repatriate me. Let me die in my homeland, irrespective of how critical the conditinos are back there. Here I am living as a hostage”.

A refugee is writing a request letter to UNHCR outside the latter's office, New Delhi

Saed*, 26, is cooking dinner outside UNHCR, New Delhi. Saed has also been a homeless for last year like other fellow refugees.

Saed and his compatriot are having meal outside UNHCR.

Saed and other homeless refugees sleeping in open, outside UNHCR.

Fartuun*, 58, says “Our black face has become our enemy. We can not tolerate racism anymore. I will be the happiest one dying like a brave one than a slave”.

Xeyder*, 25, says “It’s been 5 years since I have been in India; I am perpetually suffering and yet I have no refugee status. I worked in a BPO, but after a month, I was fired without salary. I was told this is because I was not able to submit my identity documents. I don’t give a shit, whether I get killed or live in a worse condition in Somalia. I want to get back to my country”.

A refugee showing his qualification degrees, which are now useless to him.

Samale*, 30, is writing an application to UNHCR to seek subsistence allowance. Samale was thrown out of his room three days back, as he could not pay the rent. Now, he is staying at a friend's place. I was informed later that UNHCR rejected his application.

A refugee has drawn a picture, it depicts his dissatisfaction with UNHCR. It depicts refugees being under fire while under protection of UNHCR. ‘A person in protection hands’ is an emblem of UNHCR.

A recently resettled refugee has cherished reaction while chatting with me.

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