The Government of Somalia has adopted a new national policy on internally displaced persons (IDPs), and refugee-returnees. The first of its kind, the policy seeks to provide rights-based solutions for the protection of all Somali citizens.
Adopted on November 14, 2019, the new National Policy, National Eviction Guidelines and the Interim Protocol on Land Distribution for Housing to Eligible Refugee-Returnees and IDPs, were developed with support from IDLO, who has been working with the Somali Federal Government and Federal Member States since 2017 to address the crisis around forced migration.
While a new government ushered in signs of progress and restoration in 2012, the country continues to face instability and threats of insurgency. As a consequence of conflict, over 870,000 Somali refugees are living across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, and an estimated 2.1 million live in protracted displacement within the country.
Policies were therefore needed to support the voluntary return, reintegration and protection of Somalis into stable regions of the country and to improve the protection of displaced populations.
“Before the National Policy on Refugee-Returnees and IDPs and other administrative regulations were developed and approved, Somalia did not have any modern regulatory framework to assist and protect displacement-affected communities in Somalia. IDLO played a pivotal role in the process,” stated Dr. Amina Said Ali, the Commissioner at the National Commission for Refugees and IDPs.
As part of its program funded by the European Union, IDLO supported national partners with the drafting process by providing substantive legal and thematic expertise and financial resources that facilitated an inclusive dialogue process with all relevant stakeholders including Federal Member States, local authorities, civil society and development and humanitarian partners.
The National Policy provides a framework that seeks to protect persons of concern – IDPs, and refugee-returnees – from further forced displacement, provide protection and assistance during displacement, and find a durable solution to their displacement. For the first time, it codifies the roles and responsibilities between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States.
“What is now possible with the adoption of the National Policy and administrative regulations is that Somalia’s Federal Government has for the first time recognized and accepted the primary responsibility to find durable solutions for refugee-returnees and IDPs, to refrain from, and protect against, arbitrary and forced evictions of IDPs that has unfortunately become so common in recent years,” stated one of IDLO’s Field Program Manager in Somalia who worked on the project.
Land also presents complex issues for IDPs and refugees. As security continues to improve in major urban cities, competition for land occupied by IDPs has increased in recent years, and thousands of IDPs have been forcibly evicted as a consequence. The new National Eviction Guidelines address the human rights implications of evictions in urban and rural areas by preventing arbitrary and forced eviction of occupiers of public and private properties, from homes, encampments and other lands.
“IDPs faced a continuous threat of eviction from their settlements without any safeguards,” remarked Dr. Amina Said Ali. “However, the now passed National Eviction Guidelines provide judicial protections and clear procedures in the event of an eviction.”
In addition to issues relating to eviction, the Interim Protocol on Land Distribution for Housing presents provisions for land and housing for vulnerable IDPs. The Protocol establishes the eligibility criteria for land distribution, availability of land for distribution, priority in land allocation, determination of beneficiaries, and the obligations of beneficiaries and land ownership.
“It was difficult to allocate land because before all land belonged to that state, now it is all in private hands,” continued the Commissioner at the National Commission on Refugees and IDPs. “The new Interim Land Policy sets clear guidelines on the allocation of land for eligible refugee-returnees and IDPs. Furthermore, there are now clear pathways to seek durable solutions for the people of concern.”
IDLO’s Field Program Manager in Somalia concluded: “Going forward, the policies can be implemented immediately to protect vulnerable populations for a more stable and secure Somalia.”
Photo ©: UN Photo/Evan Schneider