Every year, tens of thousands of migrants and refugees make the hazardous journey from their place of origin in South-Central Somalia and Ethiopia through the north-eastern region of Somalia, Puntland, and onwards across the Gulf of Aden for both economic and security related reasons. Many die during the journey, while others are subjected to abuse and injury at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. 

Despite the inherent dangers, the number of persons attempting to cross from Puntland to Yemen is still high and continues. In 2013, there was a 30 per cent decrease (65,219) in the numbers as compared to 2012 which recorded an all-time high of 107,532.  Ethiopians continue to be the majority accounting for 85 per cent of the flows to Yemen while Somalis make up the rest. From the region, the main groups on the move are Somalis, Ethiopians, Yemenis (to Saudi Arabia only) and Eritrea. In addition, Somalia's 3,300-km coastline is one of the longest in Africa and considered as one of the world's most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy. Piracy and smuggling in Somalia are a lucrative, multifaceted business, centred on drugs, weapons, and other contraband goods, as well as human smuggling across the Gulf of Aden or further south. 

In order to reduce the negative impact of irregular migration and also to facilitate transition of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees towards durable solution, IOM is providing services and support for Migrants and Mobile Populations (MMPs) with special focus on women, youth and host communities. Different projects such as raising awareness on safe migration, providing sustainable alternative livelihoods and employment opportunities have been implemented for this purpose in all three zones; Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia.  

IOM is enhancing the government's border management capacities and further investigating the occurrence of human trafficking in the region. This is done by collaborating and working closely with immigration officials on the ground including building their capacities to enable them to detect, investigate, report and prosecute the offenders. Awareness-raising is also being conducted for the general public to sensitize them on the realities of human trafficking. 

In addition, IOM through its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects is providing access to safe and high quality water through appropriate, newly available technology as well as through the use of Private Public Partnership (PPP). IOM is also providing access to basic health care services and ensuring the protection of MMPs by using innovative approaches such as the use of solar lanterns within IDP settlements as a way to respond to Gender Based Violence (GBV). Through collaboration with UN, international and local partners IOM implements GBV projects on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), rape, domestic violence, forced marriages through awareness-raising among the IDPs and host communities, provision of psychosocial support, referral of GBV cases for medical support and access to justice for the survivors. 

IOM is also involved in skills transfer of Somali diaspora experts who are placed in local institutions to train and enhance the capacity of local authorities. 

Migration Activities 
  • Livelihood, Return and Reintegration for IDPs and Refugees 
  • Assisted Voluntary Return 
  • Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) 
  • MIDA Programmes in Somalia 
  • Migration Health 
  • Capacity Building for Migration Management (CBMM) 
  • Counter Trafficking (CT) 
Livelihood, Return and Reintegration for IDPs and Refugees 


  • Government of Japan 
  • Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) 
  • Government of Norway 

Since 2011, IOM has been implementing the Livelihood Programme in Somalia to improve livelihoods and basic social services of migrants and mobile population. The programme has contributed significantly in increasing household food security levels through short-term income generating activities such as cash for work and vocational skill training projects. 

However, with an improvement of the general security situation and of food security level, The Programme is shifting its focus towards transitional assistance from life-saving and humanitarian assistance and widening its focus to cover durable solutions for IDPs and refugees. The Programme will be implementing interventions targeting 1) IDPs and refugees who are returning to villages of origin and/or reintegrating into host communities, 2) at-risk pastoral and agro-pastoral communities, 3) potential migrants especially youths and women and 4) government capacity building of on-service delivery and response to emergencies which can result in the movement of people 

These projects include: 

  • Internship programme in Borama and Burco for recently graduated University students who are attached to local government offices 
  • Youth Migration Survey in Somaliland 
  • Vocational training for youths and women who are at risk of irregular migration 
  • Rehabilitation of community assets in areas where IDPs and refugees are returning 
  • Provision of seeds and tractors to farmers to prepare their land and rehabilitation of Berkats 
  • Emergency assistance to Somali migrants from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 
  • Emergency provision of Non-food Items (NFIs) for flood affected communities 
  • Capacity building of the Disaster Management Authority


Assisted Voluntary Return 

IOM is currently implementing assisted voluntary return assistance to Ethiopian migrants willing to return home from Somalia. Large numbers of Ethiopian migrants living in Puntland and Somaliland who have been in Somalia for the past 15 years are requesting IOM's assistance to return home. Concerned by the safety of these migrants and increased attacks on them, IOM with funding from the US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has facilitated the return of up to 130 Ethiopian migrants in 2013 alone. Majority of the returnees are women and children as well as unaccompanied minors. 

Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) 

Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) is a non-traditional development programme that puts the diaspora at the centre of its activities.  The primary aim of this programme is to build the capacity of African Government institutions by harnessing the skills that are available in the diaspora.  To do this, IOM encourages “brain circulation”.  The programme does not ask the diaspora advisors to go back permanently, but encourages them to take temporary assignments between 3 months to 18 months to advise and design policies for nascent institutions and those without the necessary capacity to respond to the needs of their constituencies.  Since this is a demand-driven programme, the modality in which the programme is implemented largely depends on the needs of the requesting institution.  The majority of the time, the diaspora advisor is providing training to government officials on the ground.  In some cases, the diaspora advisor is asked to do the day to day tasks of the position that he/she is assigned to.   

Working with the diaspora in the development of their countries of origin can be a double-edged sword.  Some diaspora groups may serve to further destabilize a country by using their purchasing power to finance opposing elements to the government, especially if the regime in power is the cause of their exile.  However, despite the potential for the diaspora to create more problems, they can play a positive role in the societal, economic, and political development of their country of origin, but there has to be a balanced approach.  The returning diaspora cannot be seen as displacing, replacing, or taking the jobs of those who stayed put throughout the conflict. 

In Somalia, IOM has been implementing the MIDA programme since 2009.  To date, IOM has placed 186 Somali diaspora advisors in 31 Somali institutions.  Most of the advisors are embedded in the Somali institutions for at least a year, but about 20 per cent of them were assigned for two years and 10 per cent for about three years.  

The MIDA placements/Somali diaspora advisors have designed new tax policies for the Somali Government, drafted the Second Five-Year Development Plan 2014-2018 for the Government of Puntland, completed the Five-Year National Development Plan for Somalia, and revitalized the Hargeisa Group Hospital in Somaliland.  In Somaliland, MIDA advisors contributed to the creation of the National Health Professional Commission (NHPC). These are among a great number of policies that the Somali diaspora advisors have designed and implemented on behalf of their respective institutions.   

It must be noted that some of the MIDA placements/Somali diaspora advisors went on to be part the highest echelons of Somali politics.  The former Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the current President of Puntland came through the MIDA programme.  The current head of the Somali National Army was one of the MIDA advisors at the Department of Defence for a year before he was tapped for that position. 

The MIDA program will continue to assist the Somali institutions in the quest to create a solid foundation upon which the future of Somalia will be built.  

MIDA Programmes in Somalia 

  • Government of Finland 
  • Government of Japan 
  • Government of the Netherlands 
  • Government of Sweden 
  • USAID 
  • UNDP 

QUESTS-MIDA is a joint initiative between Somali authorities, UNDP, and the IOM that facilitates the transfer of skills, knowledge, and experience from qualified Somali expatriates in the Diaspora to public sector institutions in Somalia. This program falls under UNDP’s Somali Institutional Development Program (SIDP).  By providing Somali national institutions with a ready supply of top quality experts, QUESTS-MIDA allows government institutions, while not neglecting training and development to focus on the delivery of much needed public services. 

MIDA-FINNSOM Health. Through the MIDA FINNSOM Health project, IOM and the Finnish-Somali diaspora will continue to support the rehabilitation and development of regional health sectors in Somaliland and Puntland (Somalia) which continue to bear the consequences of years of neglect, and a debilitating lack of qualified human resources. The project began in 2011 and under this phase, 35 participants have been placed in Puntland and Somaliland. These experts can be found at the Ministry of Health of Somaliland, Ministry of Health of Puntland, Garowe General Hospital, Bosasso General Hospital, Hargeisa General Hospital, among others; the next step is expanding IOM’s support in South Central Somalia. 

Temporary Return of Qualified Nationals (TRQN III). This programme aims at enhancing government and institutional capacity by linking diaspora in the Netherlands to institutions in Somalia. IOM works closely with both the diaspora in the Netherlands and government partners in the target countries to strengthen the linkages and to help bridge the institutional gaps. 

MIDA- Sweden: This program aims at contributing to the on-going process of stabilization and state building of Somalia by developing the capacities of key government institutions through the mobilization of technical expertise from Sweden. 

Migration Health


  • European Union
  • Government of France 
  • Government of Japan 
  • Common Humanitarian Fund 

Since 2008, IOM has been addressing the issue of health and mobility in Somalia through over 20 projects funded by over 15 donors, in order to improve the health conditions of migrants and mobile populations (MMPs) and their affected host communities for social and economic development in a participatory and sustainable manner. 
In line with the regional as well as global migration health strategy of IOM, IOM’s main pillars of the migration health strategy in Somalia includes: 

  • Research and information dissemination 
  • Advocacy for policy development 
  • Health service delivery and capacity building 
  • Coordination and partnership 

The primary activities implemented include: 

  • Primary healthcare services provision 
  • HIV prevention 
  • Safe water provision through cost-effective and environmentally friendly water flocculation technology 
  • Hygiene promotion 
  • Gender-based violence prevention including female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage 
  • Psychosocial support to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) 
  • Cross-border disease surveillance 
  • Fitness-to-travel training for partners for IDP return 
  • Technical and coordination capacity building in health sector, especially among the health authorities (Ministries of Health, National AIDS Commissions, Ministries of Water, etc) 
  • Epidemiological studies on water quality, HIV, GBV, etc 
Capacity Building for Migration Management (CBMM) 


  • United Kingdom 
  • Norway 
  • Japan 

Since the governance of Somalia stalled in 1991, there has been little effective control over the flow of migrants in and out of Somalia. Porous borders have greatly contributed to the insecurity of Somalia and its neighbours. IOM’s support to migration and border management in Somalia aims to enhance the capacity of the Somali authorities to promote safe and orderly migration and mitigate ever-growing security threats, risks and vulnerability for airport, seaport and land post users, secure borders and build the capacity of immigration officials to manage and monitor  the ever-growing border challenges and security threats. IOM provides support to seven airports in Somalia, two seaports, three  immigration offices and two land posts. 

IOM’s support to the government is structured around five pillars as follows: 

  • Legislation and policy 

Development, enactment and implementation of legislation that governs migration and border management is critical. For example, the Federal Government of Somalia has expressed a strong need for updating immigration laws enacted in the 1960s. Such legislation and migration-related policies are the backbone of migration and border management for Somalia, which IOM plans to increasingly support in the upcoming years.   

  • Infrastructure and equipment 

Since 2008, IOM has been supporting key airports, seaports and land posts, as well as immigration offices, to enhance efficient service delivery.  To this end, and taking into consideration security concerns, IOM has assisted the authorities through construction, renovation, power supply for ports of entry and immigration offices, and provision of security-related and other equipment. 

  • Border Information Management Systems (BIMS) 

IOM has been installing the Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS), a database which captures the details of passports, as well as biometric data, (i.e., fingerprints) of travelers, at key ports of entry since 2008. Concurrently with the expansion of computerized migration processes, IOM proportionately increased training of immigration officers, in Information Technology (IT), and usage of the database, which can link to additional information sources such as national and international alert lists, and enables immigration departments, to analyze migration statistics effectively.  To date, 11 ports of entry utilize the system in Somalia and IOM plans to target further ports of entry in the upcoming years.  IOM also places emphasis on “human checks”, or the ability of immigration officers to detect forgery and imposters, through additional training in immigration procedures and travel document examination.    

  • Inter-Agency and Regional Collaboration 

IOM has facilitated inter-agency and regional collaboration in migration and border management.  The collaboration of different institutions such as immigration departments, police, customs and finance, airport or seaport authorities is vital to enable Somali authorities to effectively manage borders and, by extension, improve security.       

  • Organizational Development and Management 

Under this pillar, IOM focuses on increasing the capacity of immigration departments to organize and manage their institutions, enhancing the sustainability of efforts made in improving migration and border management. To date, activities entail the clarification of the organizational structure, and the development of human resource policies, but IOM plans to extend the support to procurement and finance management.  

In all these activities, IOM seeks a strategic synergy with other programmes, in particular with the Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) programme, which supports capacity development and skills transfer through the temporary placement of Somali diaspora experts at beneficiary institutions.  In CBMM, IOM has seconded IT experts and organizational development experts to relevant authorities. 

Counter Trafficking (CT)


  • European Union 

Political and security uncertainty as well as lack of employment and livelihoods have caused an unprecedented level of migration from Somalia in the past decades. In mixed migration flows of refugees and economic migrants, a major issue of concern across the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, is human trafficking.  Focusing on Puntland, which is a source, transit and destination for human trafficking, IOM has been supporting the authority and the civil society to improve their capacity to combat human trafficking with a four-pronged “4Ps” approach.   

4Ps approach  
Since 2009, IOM has been working with the Puntland State of Somalia to fight the threat of human trafficking. IOM’s response has been based on the 4Ps approach: Prevention, Prosecution, Protection and Partnership. 

  • Prevention 

Prevention activities aim at increasing the awareness of the general public on the existence of human trafficking and potential hazardous consequences of irregular migration.  To this end, IOM has developed a public information campaign, with a radio programme to host talk shows and discussions, as well as posters, to reach out to victims of human trafficking and their families. This campaign includes specific messages and information about the Puntland authority’s mechanisms to fight human trafficking, such as the hotline number of the Counter-trafficking Unit of the police.  

  • Prosecution 

IOM has been assisting the police to conduct successful human trafficking investigations, and plans to increase the capacity of the authority, to prosecute the offenders. A Counter-Trafficking Unit has been established within the police in Garowe, Puntland, and the police plan to create additional units in Bossaso and Galkayo. IOM has provided equipment in support of the unit’s investigations, and plans to strengthen its support to the Office of the Attorney-General, to increase its prosecutorial capacity with regards to human trafficking cases.    

  • Partnership

IOM is also strengthening the capacity of the authorities to combat trafficking, by supporting the counter-trafficking unit of the Puntland police and border and migration management institutions in Somalia, with equipment to help them fight human trafficking. Three help desks to report human trafficking have been established, and this will facilitate prosecution of both traffickers and those involved in the trafficking process. 

  • Protection 

Through the Puntland authority and civil society actors, IOM provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking, including temporary shelter, food, clothing, medical and psychosocial assistance, as well as reintegration support in their place of origin. IOM has recently finalized the development of a standard referral process for victims of human trafficking, in order to ensure that actors involved co-ordinate the assistance required, while upholding the principles of respect for the human rights of the victims.  

Last updated: Main text: April 2014 

Facts and Figures

Capital Mogadishu
Population (2015):  10.8 million 
Area:  637,657 km sq 
Languages :  Somali, Arabic 
Currency:  Somali shilling (SOS) 
Net Migration Rate (2015-2020):  -3.4 migrants/1,000 population 
Immigrants (2015):  0.2% 
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants (2015):  45.6% 
Population under 15 (2015):  46.7% 
Adult HIV Prevalence (2014):  0.50% 

International Organization for Migration (IOM) 
Building IK/LIXLE-B 
Hargeisa, Somaliland 

Tel: +25.2 252 08 28 
Email: iomsomalia@iom.int