Country Facts
  • Capital: Mogadishu
  • Population: 7.5 million
  • Area: 637,657 km sq
  • Major Language: Somali
  • Currency: Somali Shilling (SOS)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Somalia was established and has been operating since 2006. The region, due to its unstable political situation, has had a vast number of its population migrating to other countries. It continues to be characterized by intense migration flows with irregular migration constituting a major challenge.


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. Such movements are known as “mixed migration flows”, as there are various motivations among the migrants making the journey, including flight from persecution and human rights violations, as well as the desire to access better economic opportunities. 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 the crossing from Puntland to Yemen has increased significantly. 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, multi-faceted business, centered on drugs, weapons, and other contraband goods, as well as human smuggling across the Gulf of Aden or further south.

Ongoing fighting between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and armed militia groups in Mogadishu and surrounding areas continue to result in increasing levels of population displacement and hindered humanitarian access to these affected populations.

Through its projects in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia, IOM aims to decrease the pressure created by these movements by raising awareness among potential migrants; improving livelihood opportunities in the areas of origin and transit; enhancing the government’s border management capacities; and further investigating the occurrence of human trafficking in the region.

IOM’s Migration Health Division (MHD) is supporting the governments and civil society with evidence-based programming to meet the health needs and fill the gap for migration health for vulnerable migrants and mobile populations. The programme aims to promote human security and ensure “healthy migrants in healthy communities” through interventions such as prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), provision of safe and clean water, protection against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), and operational research. IOM in Somalia closely works with governments, regional organisations, UN partners, and the civil society. IOM Somalia projects are classified as follows:


  • Migration Health: In 2008-2011, IOM undertook a series of ground-breaking studies in Somalia, which for the first time scientifically identified the major drivers of the national HIV epidemic as well as “spaces of vulnerability”, or hot spots. The outcome from the studies directly reshaped and contributed to the national AIDS response and led to the project funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) entitled “Community-based HIV Prevention and Stigma Reduction in Somalia” and “Vulnerable and At-risk Youth and Adolescence”. Through strong partnership with the AIDS Commissions and UN Agencies including UNICEF, UNDP, and WHO, IOM has been implementing HIV prevention programmes for hard-to-reach populations. IOM’s activities are implemented directly through community based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Raising awareness on HIV and STI transmission through community outreach and Behavioural Change Communications (BCC) is tied to reducing the HIV prevalence in Somalia. In 2012, IOM expanded its migration health programme. For the first time in 21 years, the Government of Japan's lead agency on technical cooperation rolled out a humanitarian project in Somalia. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) contributed over USD $500,000 to launch a pilot project in Somalia for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Mogadishu. In response to the Horn of Africa's worst drought in 60 years, the project is providing clean and safe drinking water to vulnerable IDPs in South Central Somalia. The project is unique because it is based on a public-private partnership that utilizes an innovative, environmentally friendly, Japanese - developed water treatment technology called Poly-Glu.


  • Mixed Migration: The mixed migration programme seeks to minimize the human suffering and abuse associated with migration through advocacy, information dissemination and coordination of response. In addition, the programme addresses the burden placed on host communities as well as root causes driving people to leave their homelands. Supporting basic infrastructure development and improving livelihood opportunities can achieve this. This programme is designed (in line with the IASC’s Protection Strategy for Somalia for 2010) to include livelihood activities that will reduce the economic pressure on source communities. If families can earn their basic living, they may be willing to avoid the risks associated with economic migration to the Gulf States.


  • Migration and Development: Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) is a capacity building programme which helps to mobilize competencies acquired by African nationals abroad for the benefit of Africa’s development. MIDA programmes in Somalia aim to strengthen the engagement of Somalis in the Diaspora. Many Somali nationals in the diaspora are applying their qualifications and skills in developed countries. Such qualifications and skills can be brought back and channeled into the development of Somalia.


  • Capacity Building in Migration Management: Somalia has seen intense and violent civil strife since 1991, consequently resulting in the collapse of government institutions, the displacement of a large section of its population, general insecurity, inter-clan violence and complex humanitarian emergencies. During the past decades, there has been essentially no effective control over the flow of migrants in and out of South-Central Somalia. The porous condition of its borders has greatly contributed to the insecurity of Somalia and its neighbours. The lack of migration and border management capacity also negatively impacts on the protection environment experienced by migrants as well as asylum-seekers. In response to requests for assistance by the authorities in Somalia, IOM developed the Capacity Building in Migration Management programme, to enhance migration management and protection capacities of immigration authorities.


  • Counter Human Trafficking: In the past three years, IOM has been able to collect information providing initial evidence that human trafficking occurs in many parts of Somalia. In 2009, IOM initiated the first counter trafficking programme in Somaliland, Puntland and South-Central Somalia, which generated much interest and support from regional authorities and civil society. Through its counter trafficking projects, IOM has been able to further establish evidence that victims are being trafficked within and out of Somalia. Findings from rapid assessments commissioned by IOM in Puntland and Somaliland confirmed that the phenomenon is indeed widespread. However, as in most other countries, the exact scale of trafficking in Somalia is difficult to determine and document due to the very nature of the crime.


  • Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR): IOM has finished the implementation of assisted voluntary return assistance to Ethiopian migrants willing to return home from Somalia. Large numbers of Ethiopian migrants living in Bosasso, a city in northern Somalia and the nation’s main port, including some who have been in Somalia for the past 15 years, have requested IOM’s assistance to return home. Concerned by the safety of these migrants and the increased attacks on them, IOM, with funding from the Japan Supplementary Budget, has facilitated the return of up to 650 Ethiopian migrants. The majority of the returnees are women and their children as well as unaccompanied minors.
  • Country Contact Information:


    International Organization for Migration (IOM)

    Mission in Somalia, Nairobi Office

    Gitanga Groove, off Gitanga Road, Lavington

    P.O. Box 1810-00606, Nairobi/Kenya,

    Tel: +254 20 2926000, +254 708 151656 +254 708 151643 +254 733122584 •

    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it