New York, US -The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday it has released updated guidelines on the needs of people fleeing southern and central Somalia that underscore the need for governments to assess applications for protection on the basis of reliable, up-to-date information about the situation in Mogadishu and other areas.
A spokesperson for the agency, Ms. Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, at a news conference in Geneva monitored at the UN headquarters in New York, said notice needed to be taken of the impact of the armed conflict on civilians.
She said that while security had improved in some parts of southern and central Somalia, armed conflict and human rights abuses continued to compel Somalis to leave their country.
More than 42,000 Somalis sought asylum in neighbouring countries and elsewhere in 2013.
'We are appealing to all States to uphold their international obligations with regard to no forced returns, or non-refoulement.
'Somali nationals should not be forcibly returned to Somalia unless the returning State is convinced that the persons involved would not be at risk of persecution,' Ms. Lejeune-Kaba stated.
According to UN refugee agency, southern and central Somalia remained dangerous places.
It noted that while there were no complete statistics on conflict-related casualties, data compiled by ACLED, a research group, showed there were more casualties in 2012 and early 2013 than in 2011.
Monthly fatalities fluctuate between 100 and 600 people. In June 2013, fierce fighting resulted in 314 casualties in Kismayo alone.
UNHCR said that civilians were at risk of being killed or wounded in crossfire between government forces and Al-Shabaab militants as well as by bomb attacks and as bystanders in targeted attacks.
The agency said as a result of the continuing fighting and human rights abuses, thousands of civilians continued to be displaced both within and outside of Somalia.
More than 57,800 people were newly displaced in southern and central Somalia between January and September 2013.
As of last October, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in this part of Somalia was estimated at 893,000 out of a total of 1.1 million IDPs countrywide, while displaced women are particularly vulnerable with consistent reports of widespread rape and perpetrators remaining unpunished.
Between January and November last year, almost 21,520 Somalis sought asylum in neighbouring countries.
In addition, Somalis filed 20,600 asylum claims in 44 industrialized countries in 2013, compared to some 18,700 claims in 2012. While more than 33,000 spontaneous returns were recorded between January and November last year, many may not have been permanent.
As of end 2012, the number of Somali refugees worldwide was 1.136 million.