Today, Egypt’s newly formed government announced that it will open its borders and accept Somali refugees who are fleeing Libya.
As explained by Somalia’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed:
“Also we discussed the matter with other countries bordering with Libya and we are very hopeful that they will also do the same as Egypt did—on behalf of Somali government I am grateful to Egypt for its acceptance to welcome Somali refugees who are escaping from unrest in Libya,” the prime minister stated.
Egypt’s move is a welcome sign. But how telling is it that the first country to adopt new refugee policies for Horn migrants stuck in Libya was Egypt? Oh the irony.
Questions remain over how many Somalis and other Horn refugees and migrants will try to enter Egypt and whether more countries will follow suit.
According to the UNHCR, there are 2,500 Somali refugees in Tripoli alone.
Last month, 305 Eritreans, 191 Ethiopians and 153 Somalis were denied evacuation in a camp in Bengazi, while thousands of other refugees from Egypt, Tunisia and Bangladesh were rescued.
Western and Arab countries have been slow to accept Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians stuck in Libya, despite repeated requests from the UNHCR. In some cases it may be a logistical delay as many embassies in Tripoli have since closed.
But considering the Horn of Africa’s turmoil, it is surprising that the protection of these civilians hasn’t become a higher priority for donor countries and other more developed countries.
With Somalia’s ongoing violence and forcible recruitment of civilians to fight, the continued threat of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the governments’ presumed inability or unwillingness to take their citizens back leaves thousands of innocent people in limbo, the Horn of Africa represents one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises.
The UNHCR recognizes their plight and has identified some arrivals as “persons of concern”. Many fled due to the political insecurity, lack of economic opportunity and jobs, the indefinite nature of military conscription, and ethnic or religious persecution in their respective countries.
The most troubling aspect of this story isn’t just the unimaginable suffering these refugees are forced to endure, but the world’s reluctance and failure to respond to their needs.