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One last chance: Hard-luck refugee mom desperate to stay in Canada


Misfortune follows the North End single mom with six kids everywhere.

When she was nine, her family fled mayhem in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. They took shelter in a refugee camp in Kenya that locals torched, scattering many families, including hers. At 15, she was alone and fled to South Africa, already flooded with unwelcome refugees. By the time she was 28, she was a single parent of six and driven out again by locals who beat her husband until he fled and burned down their small shop.

When Idil Timayare was reunited with her parents in Winnipeg in 2011, her troubles didn’t end. She was run down by a cab this past winter, days before a crucial refugee hearing. As luck would have it, the Immigration and Refugee Board member hearing her case had a track record of rejection — saying no to 180 refugee claimants out of 210 cases heard in 2011. With a busted foot and fuzzy on prescription painkillers, 31-year-old Timayare testified on behalf of herself and her six young kids and lost.

Now, she and her children, who’ve been attending school here, have no status in Canada and their future is uncertain. They scrape by with help from food banks and social assistance in a dark, stifling hot-box they rent for $1,000 a month in the North End.

“I have hope,” said Timayare, who’s receiving physiotherapy, coping with pain and looking forward to returning to English classes in the fall. “My kids like it here. They enjoy school.”

Their rent is high and their house isn’t great, but they have good neighbours, she said.

Her five sons under 12 have been going to school here for the last two years. The oldest, Zakariya, who’s turning 12 in September, said he’s not sure what he wants to be when he grows up. His younger siblings practically bounce off the walls of their cramped home and he feels the pressure of his station in the family.

“It’s annoying,” said the Canadian-sounding adolescent.

Four-year-old Samira is nervous about starting nursery school but excited about her shiny, pink shoes.

“I can’t go back,” said her mom. She fears her daughter would have to undergo female circumcision.

‘I can’t go back… Somalia is not safe’

“I don’t want her circumcised. Somalia is not safe.”

If they’re sent back to South Africa, they have no means of support and, as outsiders, will once again face xenophobic attacks, she said.

Timayare’s parents, who were granted refugee status and assisted by the Canadian government to come here more than a decade ago, are now Canadian citizens. They live a short drive from their daughter and grandkids and planted a big vegetable garden in their backyard.

Samira spends a lot of time at her grandparents’ apartment, where her grandmother, Amina, dotes on her and gives her strawberry ice cream in a red plastic cup.

Grandfather Ahmed Timayare said they help out as much as they can.

On Feb. 4, he was waiting downtown in the car with his grandkids for his daughter, who’d gone to a program for newcomers. They waited three hours and she didn’t show up. He didn’t know a cab hit her and she’d been taken to hospital by ambulance. She was stabilized and a patient lent her a cellphone to call her dad.

Days later, she hobbled into court for her refugee hearing, on crutches with a cast on her leg and still in rough shape. She wanted to get it over with.

Her father stayed in the hall with her kids while Timayare went ahead with the proceedings. She said she can’t remember what happened, but she knows she lost.

Human rights lawyer David Matas said she shouldn’t have testified in such rough shape — especially before a board member with one of the highest refugee rejection rates. Matas asked the Federal Court to review the refugee board decision, but it refused.

Now her only hope is to apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, Matas said. The application fee for the family of seven is $1,400 — what they have to live on every month, said Timayare.

If her luck doesn’t change soon, the Canada Border Services Agency said she and her kids will be sent back to the place they fled.

“We’re safe here,” said Timayare.


Migrants die in Italy shipwreck off Catania

 Migrants die in Italy shipwreck off Catania

Monday, August 12, 2013


The bodies of six migrants apparently killed in a shipwreck have been recovered on a beach in southern Italy.

Officials in the Sicilian port of Catania say some 100 other migrants – reportedly Syrians – have been rescued.

The migrants were thrown into the sea when the boat ran aground just 15m (50ft) from shore, but some drowned because they could not swim.

Some 7,800 illegal migrants and asylum seekers landed in Italy in the first half of this year, the UN says.


Most come from sub-Saharan African countries, particularly Somalia and Eritrea. But a large number of Syrians and Egyptians are reported to be among hundreds of people who have arrived in Italy in the past few days.

Tourist buses and ambulances

In Saturday’s incident, the boat was carrying about 120 migrants; many women and 17 children were on board, reports say.

The bodies were reportedly found by employees at a beach resort nearby.

The incident coincided with the arrival of three cruise ships carrying 12,500 tourists in Catania, Sicily’s second biggest city. Tourist buses mingled with ambulances and rescue teams.

The nationalities of the migrants have not been confirmed but one port official speculated that many were Syrian.

Fine weather and calm seas in recent days have meant an increase in arrivals of undocumented migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, says the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.

Human traffickers, who make huge profits dumping migrants on Italian shores, often abandon their passengers as soon as Italian or Maltese coastguards spot them, adds our correspondent.

The UN said almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea during 2012 in attempts to reach Europe.


UNHCR welcomes court ruling on refugees


UNHCR welcomes court ruling on refugees



Somalia refugees wait to be screened by United Nations High Commission for Refugees officials at the Dadaab camp in this file photo. UNHCR has welcomed Kenya’s High Court ruling which stopped the government’s plans to relocate urban refugees July 30, 2013.

Somalia refugees wait to be screened by United Nations High Commission for Refugees officials at the Dadaab camp in this file photo. UNHCR has welcomed Kenya’s High Court ruling which stopped the government’s plans to relocate urban refugees July 30, 2013.  

By LILLIAN ONYANGO laonyango@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted  Tuesday, July 30  2013 at  17:52









The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed Kenya’s High Court ruling which stopped the government’s plans to relocate urban refugees.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said the government directive issued last December to move the refugees to camps in Dadaab and Kakuma resulted in their harassment by police, detention and extortion mainly in Nairobi.

“Many of them could not move about freely and fear of such treatment led hundreds of Somali refugees to return to Somalia or move to neighbouring countries,” UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba said during a press briefing in Geneva.

According to the agency, when the directive was issued there were a total of 51,000 mainly Somalia urban refugees in Kenya.

“Most of the refugees living in urban areas have developed coping mechanisms, and so do rely on humanitarian assistance. There are also large numbers of refugee children attending schools in urban areas whose education would have been compromised had the relocation order been carried out,” the official said.

UNHCR appeared in the petition as a “friend of the Court” and provided advice on the applicable international refugee and human rights laws.

In its ruling, the Court stated that the government did not show that the plans to relocate the refugees would heighten the country’s national security.

Ms Lejeune-Kaba said UNHCR hoped the government will implement the “important constitutional decision” and move fast to resume legal services that were suspended pending the court process.

“These include the registration and issuance of documents to refugees and asylum seekers, which are essential for their freedom of movement, access to social and community benefits, as well as their protection against arbitrary arrest,” read her statement which was posted on the agency’s website.

Currently, Kenya hosts some 600,000 refugees.

The UN has maintained that such a move should be done voluntarily and only when the security situation in the previously war-torn country has sufficiently improved.

The petition filed by legal aid organisation Kituo Cha Sheria contested the legality of the relocation plan in January, and the court ordered the plan suspended pending its decision.

Last month, Kenya and Somalia formed a joint task force to supervise the voluntary repatriation of Somalia refugees.

The Director of the Office of the Great Lakes Region Ken Vitisia said Kenya would lobby for the return of Somali refugees during the regional leaders’ meeting in Nairobi this week.

He said the hosting of Somalia refugees has become an unbearable “burden” and that the government would lobby for the region to take a “common stand” on the issue.

“It is in Kenya’s interest that we don’t have regional conflicts because we are a trading nation. If we have peace and stability in the region, it means we can trade more,” Mr Vitisia told reporters.





Refugee influx spurs action on mutilation


Demand for female genital mutilation prevention and support services has ”significantly increased” in Victoria due to a rise in migration and refugee settlement, the Health Minister, David Davis, has warned.

Mr Davis has written to federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, urging her to match state government funding of $900,000 in 2013-14 for the Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program, to meet growing demand for female circumcision support and prevention services.

”The changing demographic pattern of this settlement requires increased efforts in responding to FGM [female genital mutilation] and providing support to disperse settled communities,” Mr Davis said. He said a cost-share agreement with the Commonwealth would let the program ”significantly increase its reach and effectiveness.”

”I think this issue is a very serious one,” he told The Age.

”There’s obviously a number of cultural sensitivities and we need people who can reach across these cultural divides.”

The extra money would be used to implement a professional training course for health professionals, another dedicated FGM clinic in a public hospital in outer-metropolitan Melbourne, a leadership course for young women and improved data collection.

Jacinta Waters, the acting director of women’s health services at the Royal Women’s Hospital, runs Australia’s first nurse-led deinfibulation clinic, which has repaired the effects of the circumcision of 33 women and seen 90 women for consultations since it opened in 2010. She said there had been an increase in women visiting the clinic in the past six months.

The clinic opens every second Friday and nearly all the clients are from African countries, including Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.

About 30 per cent of clients are pregnant and need to be deinfibulated – or opened up – to allow for a natural birth. ”They can have mental health issues, sexual difficulties, urinary concerns, they may require sexual counselling. The procedure is the easy bit, the eliciting of that sensitive information in a cultural sensitive environment is the difficult part.”

Ms Waters said she was not aware of female genital mutilation occurring in Victoria. But she said counselling was provided for parents in the post-natal section of the hospital about the legal restrictions and health impacts of the practice on baby girls.

”We tell them it is illegal in Australia, and it is illegal for your family member to take the baby girl overseas to get it done.”

A spokesman for Ms Plibersek said the Department of Health and Ageing would discuss with the Victorian government ways to collaborate on the delivery of services. He said the federal government had doubled its grants for non-government organisations to tackle FGM to $1 million and the minister would ensure the issue was on the agenda at the next ministerial Standing Council on Health.

”The Commonwealth would welcome additional investment by all states and territories on FGM as a national priority. The usual process to determine Commonwealth and state and Territory cost share arrangements is through joint ministerial discussions.”

In 1 minute a family can lose everything, in 1 minute you can help them


OTTAWA, June 18, 2013 /CNW/ – While countries around the world prepare to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling for greater solidarity with refugees and other forcibly displaced.

Through its World Refugee Day 2013 call to action, in 1 minute a family can lose everything, in 1 minute you can help them, UNHCR aims to remind the world how one’s life can change in a minute and how crucial it is to provide refugees with support and understanding.

‘World Refugee Day is a good opportunity for us to pause and reflect on what we can do as individuals to help refugees,’ said Furio De Angelis, UNHCR Representative in Canada. ‘The challenge to solidarity with refugees is more than an issue of compassion when images of human misery are shown on our TV screens, it is also a matter of action’.

According to UNHCR figures, the past 24 months have been some of the most challenging in UNHCR’s history. Multiple concurrent emergencies have forced more people to flee across borders in 2011 and 2012 than in the previous seven years combined. Continuing strife in places like Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan still pose the threat of even more refugee outflows in the coming months.

The call to action will also lead Canadians in their celebration for World Refugee Day this year.  Several events are planned across the country to mark the day.

See Annex 1 for details of UNHCR’s events. A listing of all World Refugee Day events planned across Canada can also be found on http://www.unhcr.ca/wrd


World Refugee Day, June 20, UNHCR commemorates the strength and resilience of the more than 45 million people around the world forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution. Multiple refugee emergencies have forced record numbers of people to flee – yet the vast majority of media coverage given over to the conflicts in Syria, Mali, South Sudan and DRC, rarely focuses on the human cost of war. The 2013 call to action aims to remind the world that the victims of war need our help.

Annex 1
List of UNHCR events

Toronto, ON

When: 20 June 2013, Noon – 3:00 pm

Where: Yonge-Dundas Square


Walk a Mile in a Refugee’s Shoes starting at Nathan Phillips Square City Hall (ramp and location of UNHCR flag) at 11:00 am.

Concert at Yonge-Dundas Square: African Guitar Summit, Robi Botos, Allyson Morris, award winning author Dr. Vincent Lam (Headmaster’s Wager & Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures).

Award ceremony for the UNHCR-COSTI Refugees and Human Rights Child and Youth Poetry Contest. The event will include community exhibits and information booths from agencies working with refugees and asylum seekers.
Details at http://www.worldrefugeedayto.ca

At night, the following places will be lit in blue in honour of WRD:

  • Niagara Falls
  • CN Tower
  • Peace Bridge
  • Toronto City Hall

From 18 to 20 June, the UNHCR flag will be raised at Toronto City Hall.

Partners: Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, COSTI Immigrant Services, Sojour House, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, Canadian Red Cross, Amnesty International Canada, Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, Centre for Refugee Studies, Local Immigration Partnership, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Contact Person: Rana Khan, khanr@unhcr.org or Vanessa Dullabh, dullabh@unhcr.org

Montreal, QC

When: 20 June 2013, 5:30pm7:30pm

Where: Auditorium du Centre d’archives de Montréal, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Édifice Gilles-Hocquart, 535, Viger Ave. East (metro station Berri-Uqam or Champ-de-Mars).

Event: After screening short videos made by resourceful young people on their refugee experience, the audience will have the chance to meet with three youth to hear first-hand how forced migration has impacted their lives and their families, as well as how they have successfully integrated into the fabric of Montreal.

Partners: The Mapping Memories Project of Concordia University

Contact Person: Tania Ghanem, ghanemt@unhcr.org

For all other planned events across Canada, visit http://www.unhcr.ca/wrd

Image with caption: “Three young Syrian girls play in a rundown area of Erbil. The six-year-old in the middle lives with her family in a partially-constructed home. They fled from Syria after a tank entered their neighbourhood and began firing at houses. The girl says she was scared but now feels safe in Iraq. (CNW Group/UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES)”. Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130618_C9115_PHOTO_EN_28128.jpg


For further information:

Gisèle Nyembwe, 613-232 0909 ext 225, email: nyembwe@unhcr.org


Kenya begins process of repatriating one million Somali refugees



Kenya: Kenya will host a major international conference in August to discuss on modalities of repatriating more than one million Somali refugees to their country.

The conference, which will be held in the second week of August, will be co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya, Somali and UNHCR with the International Organization for Immigration (IOM) being invited.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed Monday revealed that a group of international organisations are already mapping out safe places for the refugees to resettle; saying the exercise will be conducted in the most humane manner.

Ambassador Amina said that currently there are over one million Somali refugees, of which 600,000 are formally registered.

She said that the organisations have already compiled documents and reports on the places of origin for the refugees, a half of whom he added crossed the border to Kenya in the last two years.

“What I am happy about is that 50 percent of these are willing to voluntarily return but we want to do it in an orderly and most humane manner which upholds the dignity to our visitors,” the minister said.

She was speaking at a Nairobi hotel where the ministry hosted a breakfast for envoys from Asian countries who are accredited to Nairobi.

Ambassador Amina took the opportunity to lobby the Asian countries to lender support to Kenya’s efforts of repatriating the refuges some who have called Kenya home in the last two decades.

“We are seeking your support in ensuring we have an appropriate level of support to enable them resettle peacefully in their homeland,” she told the ambassadors.

Somalia has been without a stable government for over twenty years now following the ousting of dictator Said Barre with Kenya bearing the brunt of its neighbors’ instability as refuges fled into the country.

Kakuma in Turkana and Daadab in Garissa refugee camps are some of the biggest in the region, hosting hundreds of thousands of Somalia and Sudan nationals. Another significant number of Somali refugees live in Nairobi.



Education: Some people may take it for granted, but to many, it is like a diamond in the dirt!

Somali mom getting education at Lincoln

The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fatima Shoria spelled her last name out loud in English and then looked to her friend and, at the moment, interpreter sitting to her left to make sure she had it right.

In an office room at the Lincoln Community Center, Nasra Ibrahim smiled and nodded. Yes, she said, that’s how you spell it.

Shoria had waited a year in Mankato just to have the opportunity to learn to spell her last name, among various other things that most of us take for granted. She was on the waiting list for the preschool program at Lincoln Logs Learning Center for her son, Idiris, so she could begin Adult Basic Education classes, including English as a Second Language.

Finally, last September, she got the call that there was a spot open, and she and her son started coming to Lincoln every day.

Idiris is now chatting away in English, which is fun for Shoria to see. For her, the road has been tougher but no less enjoyable, she said.

“I’m old, and I cannot be like him,” Shoria said in Somali through Ibrahim. “His brain is like recording. It was empty when he came here. Now it’s always recording.”

The big smiles from Shoria as she talks about being able to read mail that comes to her house, or understanding how to do basic math, are even more moving when she recalls what it has taken for her to get to this point.

Born in Somalia in the Bantu tribe, made up of mostly poor and uneducated citizens, her family and tribe didn’t believe girls or women should go to school. Violence from the war was all around her, and so to protect her, Shoria’s family arranged for her to be married at the age of 13.

The couple left their families in search of a safer place to live, walking for months from city to city. Along the way, Shoria gave birth to the couple’s first son.

They decided Yemen would be a safe place to stay, so they saved for months to raise the $100 per person for the boat ride in the late 1990s, only saving enough for Shoria and her 4-month-old baby.

It wasn’t until she was on board that she realized it was a “smuggler’s boat” that would not be able to dock on shore without being shot at by the Yemeni Navy.

When the Yemeni shore was barely visible, the driver ordered everyone off the boat, forcing them to swim to shore. Shoria didn’t know how to swim and had her baby in her arms when she jumped into the water in panic.

She remembers struggling to stay afloat and having to let go of her son. The rest of the swim was a blur, but she remembers someone grabbing her baby and swimming him to shore. She remembers nearly drowning and being rescued by someone who helped swim her to shore.

After four months in a refugee camp, her husband joined them. In the time the family was there, they had their second son, Idiris.

With help from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the family left the camp and came to the United States, arriving in St. Louis, Mo., in August 2010. After 10 months there, the family moved to Mankato in August 2011 with another family who was headed here.

Outreach staff helped the family find an apartment and helped her oldest son enroll in school. He’s now a high school student at Mankato East, taking English-language learners classes to help learn English.

She was also told about Adult Basic Education classes at Lincoln and was encouraged to enroll.

Shoria was thrilled. Since she was a girl, she had dreamed of getting an education, so she registered right away for transportation and preschool for her son.

But because of the lack of space in Lincoln Logs, she waited a year before they could attend.

Now it’s been six months since the two started school at Lincoln, and she’s already moved up one literacy level. Shoria knows her name and address. She can fill out a form. And she has short conversations without an interpreter.

She can grouse about the weather, for example, and let you know that math is awfully tough sometimes.

In a recent class led by teacher Joni Gilman, multiplication was the lesson of the day.

“Ten times any number equals that number plus a zero at the end,” Gilman instructed a group of about half a dozen students. “What’s 10 times 6?”

Shoria wrote 60 on her notebook and showed the teacher.

“That’s correct,” she said.

Coming to Lincoln is the best thing that’s happened in her life, she said.

“When she first came here, she didn’t know how to recognize her name,” said Ibrahim, who works in reception and does outreach for Adult Basic Education. “And now, she said, ‘I can write my name. I can spell my first and last name. I can recognize my kids’ names. When mail comes, I can tell who it’s going to.’”

Shoria knows she has a long way to go. Her plan is to eventually attend college and perhaps become a nurse. For now, she’s focusing on the basics — computer skills, math and, of course, English.

“I’m having a good time,” she said.



Somali refugee turns new life in Australia into OAM

Somali refugee turns new life in Australia into OAM

Abdirahman Mohamud, a father of nine,runs a convenience store in Moorooka, but has also joined Australian peacekeepers in Somalia as a translator during Operation Solace.

Abdirahman Mohamud, a father of nine,runs a convenience store in Moorooka, but has also joined Australian peacekeepers in Somalia as a translator during Operation Solace. Photo: Michelle Smith


Brisbane Times
Monday, June 10, 2013

Wearing a pinstriped suit, Abdirahman ‘‘Abdi’’ Mohamud sits in a worn office chair talking frenetically on his mobile phone.

About 12 minutes south of Brisbane’s CBD, Mr Mohamud’s convenience store is nestled on a sliver of Beaudesert Road, Moorooka, unofficially christened ‘‘Africa town’’.

The kilometre of road here is a testament to the virtues of second chances.

Surrounded by an eclectic mix of soaps, hair products, rugs, pressure cookers and clothes, Mr Mohumud welcomes visitors to his store with a broad grin, ushering them inside with the wave of a hand.

‘‘Come, come,’’ he says.

When he realises this reporter is at his door he taps the leather seat beside him, while still talking in his mother tongue.

As his phone conversation ends, Mr Mohumud slips off his brown sandals and crosses one leg over the other.

The father of nine was born in the city of Baidoa, south-central Somalia.

His beaming smile gives no clue to the horrors he witnessed in his home country – the horrors of seeing children starving in the streets, fearing at the same time he would not be able to feed his own sons and daughters.

‘‘It was the ‘city of death’,’’ he says.

‘‘The bones of the people were lying everywhere. There was the whole village, around 2000 to 3000 people, perished. It was heartbroken. Nobody can imagine.

‘‘It was genocide. It is beyond to comprehend what it was like.’’

Before arriving in Australia, he was held captive by the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who was to gain world notoriety as the antagonist in the film Black Hawk Down.

Abdirahman "Abdi" Mohamud.” I never find difficult being in Australia,” Abdirahman Mohamud says. Photo: Michelle Smith

‘‘I had started university when the civil war began and worked with the international community, including the Australian Defence Force, because I spoke English,’’ Mr Mohumud, 46, says.

He joined 1000 Australian peacekeeping soliders as an interpreter. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Australians’ deployment to Somalia under Operation Solace.

‘‘After the United Nations left the warlord kidnapped me, but I was able to flee to Kenya,’’ Mr Mohumud says.

After a year in a refugee camp, Mr Mohumud and his wife, Odpi, and their six children boarded a plane to Australia, courtesy of the Australian High Commission.

The young family arrived in Brisbane on December 4, 1998.

‘‘It was like my birth date,’’ Mr Mohumud says.

‘‘Australia is the lucky country. The good thing about Australia is they have a culture that is open-minded to everyone, and they are good to hosting people.’’

Mr Mohumud started driving a taxi the following year.

Within six years, he had saved enough money to open his own business, and had another three children. He’s now a grandfather.

‘‘I never find difficult being in Australia,’’ he says.

His grin broadens when he speaks of daughters, Masra, 27, Amale, 23, Hani, 21, Kowther, 20, Adni, 12 and Arafo, 9, and his sons Abdima, 17, and Abdi, 16.

They are completing degrees in medical engineering, business, psychology and international relations.

However, other Somalian refugees have struggled to settle in their new home.

Mr Mohumud explains grievances between tribes and communities have traversed oceans.

He established the Somali Development Organisation to unite his community, while helping those in his home country.

‘‘I decide to link them. I tell them the only thing to success in this country is unity,’’ he says.

He now acts as a translator for Somali refugees, helping them seek medical treatment, legal aid and financial assistance.

He also teaches them the ways of the land.

‘‘I put a lot of effort to explain to them Australia is a country for everyone, same rights for everyone,’’ he says.

While working with the troops, Mr Mohumud became familiar with the Australian sense of humour. He tries to explain this too to the new arrivals.

And in the afternoons the small business owner is also a tutor, helping local children with their school homework.

He believes in paying it forward, ‘‘because I witness the pain of the poor’’.

He sponsors families still living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp.

‘‘We send a lot of money,’’ he says.

‘‘Then those families support more families.’’

For his service to his community, Mr Mohumud has been awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia.

‘‘From July, I will include my name O.A.M,’’ he says with a chuckle.

‘‘I am so proud.’’


Somalia Calls on South Africa to Protect Immigrants



Somalia Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon is calling for South African President Jacob Zuma to take urgent action to prevent more violence against the Somali business community in South Africa. The call follows deadly attacks the past week against foreign business owners in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. 

Somali shopkeeper Abdi Ahmed died in the worst way imaginable, according to his brother Issa, who stumbled upon his dying brother shortly after they were attacked by a mob last week in the South African city of Port Elizabeth.

“His body was mutilated,” he says. “There were wounds from knives, stones, and machetes.”  He says, “you would not think he was killed by human beings.  My brother was killed by animals; he looked as if he was eaten by a hyena, not human beings.”

Ahmed is one of dozens of Somali shopkeepers who have been targeted in South Africa recent months.  The Johannesburg township of Diepsloot also recently saw violence against Somali shopkeepers.

This killing and others like it in South Africa has prompted Somalia’s prime minister to call on South African President Jacob Zuma to intervene to protect the community.

President Zuma’s spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment, but the youth wing of his ruling African National Congress has condemned the attacks and called for action. 

“I think there needs to a serious education that happens with our communities, especially, that we have always been seen as being an integrated society.  A well-integrated society is part of Africa.  And I think that is the education that we need to bring about, and also try and encourage our people and educate them to actually be tolerant,” said ANC Youth League spokesman Bandile Masuku.

Braam Hanekom is director of the non-profit group People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty.  The group works to protect and promote the rights of all refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in South Africa.

Hanekom says the Somali community is definitely often targeted because they set up cash businesses in poor areas, but he disputes newspaper accounts that referred to the killings as a “genocide.”

“It is true that there has been a really a shockingly high number of Somalis who are being murdered by criminals and targeted.  Sometimes there are clear indications that competitors are involved in the assassinations and murders and lootings, muggings.  But to classify it as a genocide is quite a harsh terminology, because the attacks are very much to do what Somalis are doing rather than what they are,”  Hanekom said.

Port Elizabeth resident Dino Jilley has lived in South Africa for nearly half his life and is provincial chairman of the Somalia Association in South Africa.  He says South African police are largely not to blame.

“Ninety percent of the policemen, they are not happy what is happening and they are fighting 24 hours day and night,” he said. “They are not happy, they are doing their job.  But you will get 10 percent who say, ‘Ah, at the end of the day, you are a foreigner, you come to this country, you must expect the consequences, you must expect whatever problem will face you, we have got nothing to do.’  But the majority, I would say – because I grew up in this country – the majority I would say, the police are working, working hard and trying to do their job.”

And in some ways, Hanekom noted, the problem also lies in Somalia.  The nation has been in a state of violence and chaos for more than two decades, prompting refugees to flee in droves.

Students For Refugee Students




Student for Refugee Students is a national student organization that was established to respond to the escalating needs of refugee students. According to the 2006 United Nations statistics, there are about 8 million refugees in the world while the figures for the number of people “of concern” hiked to about 21 million. As such there is the need to pay closer attention to refugee issues and how quickly durable solutions can be attained.

 SRS is particularly focused on improving human capital of the refugees in settlement camps. In the same spirit, SRS is proud to be contributing to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals in the developing countries particularly “Education for All”.

SRS membership is open to every individual who has interest in Refugees issues as well as development in the third world countries. The vast majority of the members are students in various provinces in Canada and also in the United States.