Somali Refugees: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Several new reports reveal that Somali and Ethiopian refugees, fleeing drought and violence at home, often face renewed danger crossing the ocean to Yemen and in South African refugee camps.

According to the aid group Doctors Without Borders, 20,000 such refugees crowded into overloaded boats during the first five months of 2008.

They endure beatings and abuse by smugglers, and at least 400 died en route.

Once the refugees reach their final destination, their troubles often deepen.

A post the Boston Globe Web site noted that a group of Somalis in a South African refugee camp threatened to commit suicide en masse last week to protest their living conditions.

The camp was one of several set up by the South African government after a wave of anti-foreigner riots raged through the nation’s slums a few weeks ago.

According to the report, which was written by a Yale law student in South Africa on an internship, 14 other refugees were arrested over plans for a protest.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that some foreigners seeking shelter in these camps have complained that, after escaping angry mobs, they are now assaulted by the South African authorities who are supposed to be protecting them.

— Will Crain/


“Somali and Ethiopian Migrants Face Violence in Waters Off Yemen”
Doctors Without Borders, June 19, 2008

“South Africa’s president calls attacks on immigrants shameful”
Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 2008

“Refugee crisis created in South Africa”
Boston Globe, June 18, 2008

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