ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of Somali refugees, mainly women and children, assembled in front of Social and Assistance Centre (SACH) in Islamabad on Thursday and protested against what they described as injustice, deliberate negligence, and discrimination against them.
They held placards and chanted slogans, urging United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to intervene.
“Our needs of protection, education, healthcare and asylum are still unresolved,” they said through their placards.
The Somalis were seeking to be recognised as refugees and given the same rights as refugees from Iran and Afghanistan. They said they want basic education, vocational training, and access to adequate health facilities, financial assistance, enough protection and resettlement.
Abdul Rehman, the chairperson of the Somali community in Pakistan, said, “I talked to UNHCR and its agent agency SACH to do more [for us] but nothing tangible has happened.” He added that they will continue to protest until their demands are met.
Most Somali refugees interviewed said their lives in Pakistan were not good. A mother of three, asking not to be named, said, “All of my children were born here. But I have nothing to feed them. I do not have enough support and can’t even go back.”
“We are not considered refugees when we approach SACH offices,” said another woman, with her two children beside her.”Constant abuse from SACH workers has become a routine.”
Somalia does not have a national government, 50 years after gaining independence. Much of the war-torn country has been involved in political chaos and inter-clan fighting, resulting in widespread death and starvation.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2011.