Somali asylum seekers forced into battle

Posted on 26/04/2012

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Reports were released of Iran and Saudi Arabia both accusing each other of recruiting and training Somali refugees in Yemen as fighters, Radio Garowe reports.

An Iranian news agency FNA said last week that 1,300 Somali refugees were transferred to a military base in Saudi Arabia to be trained to fight Houthis a Shia insurgent group operating in Yemen. The Yemeni government alongside US, and Saudi support has waged a war against the insurgent group.

The report by FNA a Tehran based news agency said that Saudi Arabia train Somalia refugees who are caught illegally in the country. They are taken to Saudi military bases to be trained after being caught and then put on the battlefield to fight Houthi rebels at the border Yemen and Saudi Arabia share. 

Iran a Shia majority has been accused by Saudi Arabia of backing the Houthis who control large areas in north Yemen. A Saudi Arabian newspaper Saudi Al Sharq responded to the reports with allegations of Iran providing arms and support to Houthi rebels. The report went on to allege that a number of Somali militants fighting alongside Houthi rebels were caught by the Yemeni government.

A report by UNHCR in October of last year said that 196,000 Somali refugees are living in Yemen most of them living in poor conditions. Somalia’ s fight against Al Shabaab has caused an influx of refugees into Yemen which is caught in a conflict of its own. Somali refugees have been victims of torture, rape and forced labour and just last month over 200 Somalis where found in an underground facility where they were held captive for over 17 years.

Analysts who spoke to Garowe Online say that Somalis illegally entering countries when apprehended are occasionally used for purposes of the authorities who caught them rather than be sent back to their countrty or jailed. In Libya accusations of Somalis fighting for former dictator Momar Gaddafi led to the killings and imprisonment of many innocent Somalis. According to Gedab News an Eritrean news agency 242 Eritreans and 458 Somalis were being held in Libyan jails in 2009, officials say that number has increased after Gaddafi’s fall.

There were reports of reprisals against Somalis that were allegedly fighting for former President of Yemen Ali Abdullahi Saleh. Analysts say more reports of Somalis fighting for insurgent groups or against could further insinuate the reprisals.

Source: Garowe Online-26.04.2012

Posted in: African papers