On 17 January 2014, UNHCR released International Protection Considerations with Regard to people fleeing Southern and Central Somalia. The paper is an interim update, in light of recent developments in Somalia. The paper begins with an update on the security situation in Southern and Central Somalia, with particular focus on areas affected by fighting, areas controlled by militant group Al-Shabaab, and Mogadishu. Despite Al-Shabaab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu in August 2011 and a consequent reduction in open armed conflict, improving security remains a challenge and enforcement of criminal law is reported to be haphazard to non-existent. Although Somali nationals enjoy greater physical security when residing in an area dominated by their own clan, this traditional form of protection has been eroded by the activities of Al-Shabaab, and inter-clan tensions are reported.
The paper provides a non-exhaustive list of a dozen potential risk profiles which, if met by a Somali national, may warrant refugee status according to UNHCR. The profiles include both those perceived as opposing Al-Shabaab, as well as those perceived as supporting anti-Government groups. In addition, UNHCR recommends that individuals from areas affected by active conflict or from areas under the effective control of Al-Shabaab or related militias may be eligible for international protection due to generalized violence, depending on the individual circumstances of the case.
For claims assessed under Article 15 of the Qualification Directive, UNHCR believes that Somalis may qualify for subsidiary protection due to a real risk of serious harm caused by the continuing non-international armed conflict. UNHCR notes that the situation of generalized violence may be sufficiently serious to engage Article 15(c) without the applicant needing to demonstrate individual factors or circumstances increasing the risk of harm.
Regarding the availability of a reasonable internal relocation alternative, UNHCR states that safe relocation to Al-Shabaab controlled areas would only be possible for those with influence within this group or allied militias. No relocation would be viable to areas of armed conflict, irrespective of the actor of persecution. For those fleeing Al-Shabaab, given the operational capacity of this group in all parts of Southern and Central Somalia, a relocation alternative is generally not available, even to government-controlled Mogadishu.