The smuggling and trafficking in innocent Somalis in persons in Somalia has been a sad facet of the Somali conflict, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today.
UN Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari also expressed deep shock over the recent boat disaster in the Gulf of Aden that resulted in the death of 11 people, while another 34 are still missing.
The boat capsized last week in rough seas and bad weather, after setting sail for Yemen last Saturday.
According to the accounts of the survivors, the boat with three smugglers serving as crew and 58 passengers, lost power soon They also recounted to local authorities how smugglers forced 22 passengers overboard soon after the engine failed.
Mr. Bari notes that such tragedy highlights the critical need to find a lasting and sustainable peace in Somalia. People have the right to live in a decent manner at home and are not forced to flee constantly their country to save their lives.
He stresses that the conditions endured by Somalis who are smuggled by boat are strenuous and painful.
According to Mr. Bari, hundreds of people are squeezed into small boats that can easily capsize, and must survive a choppy ride that lasts on average 36 hours without food or water, and without very limited movement.
“Many times passengers develop skin diseases during the trip, and they run the risk of being thrown overboard by smugglers who fear getting caught.” -Mr. Bari
He also offers his heartfelt condolences to the deceased families. He also expresses his concern over recent reports about the violence faced by Somalis at the hands of the local population in transit countries.
“I urged Somali authorities at the national and sub-national level to work in close cooperation with the international community and the UN to end this issue.” -Mr. Bari
In addition, he calls on the international community to strengthen the capacity of the Somali authorities, and stressed that the London Conference on Somalia scheduled for 23 February pull together international effort to address smuggling and trafficking in the country.
He states that the upcoming London Conference will focus the world’s attention on Somalia.
On 23 February senior representatives from over 40 governments and multi-lateral organisations will come together in London with the aim of delivering a new international approach to Somalia. They will discuss how the international community can step-up its efforts to tackle both the root causes and effects of the problems in the country.
“As we try to address the suffering of Somalis inside the country, I would like to remind all transit and host countries of their legal and humanitarian obligation to guarantee the safety and dignity of Somali refugees.” -Mr. Bari
The civil war quickly that spread to the rest of the country in 1991-1992 has led to a mushrooming flow of Somali refugees spread all over the world. Living conditions were particularly severe during 1991-92, when war and enormous population upheavals lead to famine, leaving 2 million Somalis internally displaced and thousand of refugees outside the country. In the past two decades of chaos, many young Somalis died in internal clashes, while others tried to reach safety and a new life in foreign countries, sometimes by crossing the Mediterranean or the Red Sea.