By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – ” I am 10 years and I help my parents feed the family from my I beg in the streets of Hargeisa” Ms. Leila a 10 years old girl old told Somalilandsun during an encounter at Jaylani Barbershop.
As she shied away from divulging the identity of her parents the young girl revealed that she has been living with her parents and 10 siblings in Killinka estate of Hargeisa, since they left their home in the Zone five administrative region of Ethiopia 4 months ago.
“Every morning either of my parents brings me to town where I join up with other children for a day’s job of begging and return home in the evening when either of my parents comes to collect me and my day’s collection of cash and foodstuffs” said Leila
The Young Leila whose future seems to be destined for the dustbin is among an increasing number of youthful beggars who ply the streets of Hargeisa city and other major towns where they hustle people for donations especially those changing money or buying goods.
It is not only Young Leila’s age-mates who engaged in the lucrative begging duties but boys of all ages as well not to mention the women who straddle babies and sit at vantage street points or outside mosques during prayer hours.
Insiders say that most of the children carried by the begging women are hired ones as it is believed that young hungry children carried by their seemingly hungry and dirty mothers elicited the sympathy of Somalilanders. True or not we are not sure as most women queried claim the babies are actually theirs.
As for the boys, once they learn the ropes of the towns they are reported to rebel from their duties as begging family bread winners, abscond from home and thus join the cadre of glue sniffing shoe-shinning street boys.
The presence of young Leila and her ilk is an indication that the situation will return to its pre-August 2011 and before illegal immigrants from Ethiopia who were mostly beggars or employed in menial work, were voluntarily repatriated back to their country of origin
While acknowledging on the snowballing presence of beggars who are predominantly from a neighbouring country, the minister of Resettlement, Rehabilitation and national Reconstruction-MRRR Dr. Suleiman Isse Ahmed “Hagaltosie” says that all foreigners living or working in the country are required by law to register at the Refugee registration Centre in Hargeisa or with relevant authorities.
The youthful minister opinions that the new influx of the illegals mostly engaged in begging a profession that sees them drift from town to town include a large number of those returned back to their home country Ethiopia in late 2011 as a result of a voluntary repatriation project induced by a government that had warned of dire consequences for the illegals.
“My ministry facilitated the return home to neighbouring Ethiopia for seven hundred sixty eight (768) illegal immigrants who had volunteer for a return back home late 2011” Said minister Hagaltosie.
As he stressed on the fact that it is government policy to treat asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve the MRRR minister informs that the policy does not protect those not registered with relevant authorities thus arrest and subsequent voluntary repatriation or deportation of illegals should not be construed as criminalizing migration
According to the interior minister Hon Mohamed Nuur Arale ‘Duur’ all persons residing illegally in the country will face the music as illegal entry and residence in any country is against international norms.
Said he, “Somaliland is no different from other countries thus foreigners should follow proper procedures”
Upon being accused of inhumanity the interior minister who spearheaded the 2011 removal of illegal immigrants in the country says that the action was actually a humane one as it was geared towards not only enhancing national security but protecting the health of citizens and legal residents as well.
Revealing that the government is in advanced plans to registered and issue all citizens with identification cards, Hon Duur says this will avail security agencies ease of distinguishing between citizens and foreigners thus expose persons entering and living in the country illegally as well as halt human trafficking and cross border smuggling.
While this is a long overdue exercise in the country, where people enter, live and exit without following international norms it also comes at a time when the government has been under international coercion to stop the deportation of foreigners especially the Oromo’s of Ethiopia who also happen to be a majority of the beggar drifters overwhelming towns.
According Leslie Lefkow of Human Rights watch-HRW “Rounding up and deporting asylum seekers is not the way to treat vulnerable people seeking Somaliland’s protection and Somaliland authorities should instead ensure that Ethiopian asylum seekers are registered and given the protection and assistance to which they are entitled”
While Leila and others from her home town in a neighbouring country are not asylum seekers per se but seekers of better livelihoods and considering that they also perform important services like garbage collection and other menial chores action is required especially as per enacting legislation that provides for their legalized residence and engagement in related chores while banning parents utilizing their kids as beggar family bread winners.
As the debate rages on the influx of illegal in the country where they refuse or are even unaware that they need to be registered the big question mark is does Somaliland have better Economic prospects than Ethiopia?
Apart from the estimated over 100,000 illegals the republic of Somaliland is host to some 23,000 refugees from various countries and 84,400 from Somalia dubbed IDPs
During the encounter with Leila a visiting Diaspora Somalilander offered to support the young girl with education and basic needs of life. So far arrangement revolves around the girl-child collecting $3 every day as parental authority is sought.