Full Name: The Somali Republic
Head of State: The President is Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Nur Hassan Hussein the Prime Minister
Population: Approximately 9 million
Major Religions: Islam. The constitution discourages the promotion of any religion other than Islam.
Languages: The official language is Somali, with English, Arabic and Italian classed as secondary languages.

Country Information
Somalia is located on the Horn of Africa in East Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia and its coastline opens onto the Indian Ocean.

Present-day Somalia is made up of a former British protectorate to the north and an Italian colony to the south. Italian Somaliland gained its independence from Italy on July 1st 1960. On the same day, it united with British Somaliland, which gained independence just a few days earlier, to form the Somali republic. Somalia has a weak but largely internationally recognised central government authority, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), but this currently controls only the central region of Somalia. The majority of Somalis however, do not recognise this government.

Many other small political organisations exist, some clan-based, others seeking a Somalia free from clan-based politics. Many of them have come into existence since the civil war. The political situation therefore remains unstable. There are several areas of the state which have attempted to break away and become autonomous.

Why do people flee Somalia?

The anti-colonial, pro-Soviet civilian government formed at independence was toppled in a coup led by General Mohammed Siad Barre in 1969. While popular at first, Barre's regime became increasing oppressive and autocratic, leading to the birth of clan-based opposition militias. In 1988, full scale civil war broke out, leading to Barre's exile in 1991. However, up to the present, the clans have continued the bloody war amongst themselves, with no government being established. The continuous warfare, together with border clashes, has brought the Somali economy to near collapse. Mass starvation has followed, and the level of inter-clan violence has become extreme, with rape and torture commonplace. Humanitarian relief forces from the U.N. and the U.S. attempted to intervene, but by Spring 1994 all foreign troops had been withdrawn due to the instability.

Somalia is one of the largest sources of refugees and internally displaced persons in Sub-Saharan Africa. Around 400,000 people are displaced within Somalia, while refugees number 389,272. Violence and displacement have resulted in 2.5 million deaths since 1991. Since 1991, at least one million Somalis fled to the neighbouring A large majority of Somalis live in poverty. Displaced women and children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and violence. An estimated 68,000 Somali refugees have fled to neighbouring Yemen. Thousands of people cross the Aden Gulf every year, many of them on unsafe vessels run by smuggling rings. There are also refugees in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Burundi. Several thousand have been resettled to the U.S. and Europe.

Most of the population relies on international agencies to provide food, basic health, education and water services. Yet, insecurity continues to hamper international efforts to provide food aid and health services. An estimated 2.1 million Somalis, mostly in southern Somali and in Somaliland in the northeast, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Somali children are often smuggled into Europe and North America in search of a better future. These children are exploited for domestic labour and prostitution.

In the UK in 2005, 660 Somali nationals were granted refugee status with a further 195 being granted some form of leave to remain.

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