The protection of displaced Somalis: Humanitarianism and Displacement

Cindy Horst (PRIO)

Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are the most important target groups for Norway’s humanitarian assistance. While humanitarian actors’ efforts to protect civilians thus often relate to displaced civilians, for the vast majority of humanitarian agencies, the ultimate aim is to enable people to receive protection at home, and allow the displaced to return home.

Is the global increase in IDPs a consequence of the increasing support for Protection of Civilians (PoC)?  Is PoC used as an “instrument of confinement”, where protection at home is a means to bar continued migration? There is a fundamental legal difference between refugees and IDPs, in that refugees have the right to protection under the 1951 Convention. Influential scholars have argued that protection-oriented initiatives mask strategies of containment and migration management, but we have few systematic empirical studies of how attempts to provide “protection at home” affect intended beneficiaries and how PoC is perceived by the people who supposedly benefit from it.

This case study focuses on how humanitarian actors define and implement protection efforts for Somali refugees in Nairobi, Kenya versus Somali IDP camps and urban spaces in Hargeisa and Mogadishu. During a fieldtrip of 3 weeks in November-Devember 2012, I will conduct interviews with key informants as well as conduct focus groups with the refugees and IDPs affected. The main focus will be on the implications of possible differences for the actual protection of Somalis fleeing the political crisis in Somalia, as defined by the beneficiaries themselves.