This Is What A Failed State Looks Like

A case from 2011.

Two men anxiously awaited their fate. Would they be able to live in safety, or be forced to return to violence?

In 2003, Sufi fled from Somalia to the UK, aged 16.. He’d witnessed the rape of his mother by militia, and murder of his father and sister. He had post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought asylum, but was rejected. Elmi was 19 in 1988 when he moved to the UK from Somalia with his father, who later died. He was recognised as a refugee. Following convictions for a number of serious criminal offences, both applicants were issued with deportation orders.

They appealed unsuccessfully. Sufi argued he was a member of a persecuted minority clan. Elmi said his past as a drug addict and thief meant he’d likely suffer amputations, or be killed. He wouldn’t get clan protection as he wasn’t in contact. Both argued that because they’d lived in the UK, they’d be seen as westernised, and persecuted.The court rejected this: as a young, fit person Sufi could readjust to life in Somalia, and Elmi could claim clan protection. Fearing their lives, they took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

You can only qualify as a refugee if you meet certain requirements. Returning to generalised violence isn’t automatically one of those. And if there’s anywhere else in your home country you’re able to return to safely, you’ll be sent there instead.

The Court considered reports on Somalia, which had been without a functioning government for over a decade. Mogadishu was fragmented into clan-based factions. Islamist insurgents were spreading draconian laws. Violence was incessant. Homes were destroyed, many thousands displaced. Civilians were hurt by war methods that violated international humanitarian law. Minorities were tortured. In some areas, there was no water or basic necessities.

The Court made the significant decision that the general violence was too severe. Mogadishu was subject to indiscriminate bombing, and unpredictable, widespread violence. Any returnee without connections at the highest level would be at real risk of torture or inhuman treatment.

Sufi and Elmi were spared, as were many others as a result of this case.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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