Somalis constitute the largest group of foreigners with cases under consideration at UNE. Identity and the risk of persecution upon return are recurring themes in these cases. Most Somalis claim to be from South Somalia.

Data from the past two years show that UNE has reversed approximately 20% of UDI's decisions in cases where the person is from Somalia. Revocation of permits or Norwegian citizenship and applications for Norwegian citizenship are the case types with the highest number of Somalia-related cases processed in the past couple of years. Identity is the central issue in both case types.

For asylum cases from Somalia, 43% of the cases were reversed in 2023. Most of these reversals were of UNE's own decisions. Fear of forced recruitment to al-Shabaab or forced marriage are the most common reasons for applying for protection. Many of those who apply for protection in Norway refer to the security situation in their local area of Somalia.

The primary reason for rejecting many applications is that we do not believe the applicant's story, or parts of it, regarding their identity, or what they have experienced in Somalia. When assessing the credibility of a story, we consider the overall context of the case. This includes whether the explanation is coherent, consistent, logical, and appears to be experienced firsthand. Moreover, we evaluate the explanation against other information in the case, such as country-specific information.

What do we consider?

In many cases, who the applicants are, where they come from and which clan they belong to are crucial factors. One of the reasons for this is that there are Somalis living in Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia in addition to Somalia. If there is doubt as to where an applicant comes from, there will also be doubt about his or her citizenship. There is also a major difference between the security situation in Somaliland and Puntland in the north and in the rest of Somalia. It is also important to consider which clan an applicant belongs to, since this says something about his or her name and family network.

Most men who apply for protection are afraid of being forcibly recruited to al-Shabaab. Family and acquaintances have attempted to recruit some of them, while others say that they have been contacted by local members of al-Shabaab.

Among women who apply for protection, the majority are afraid of forced marriage. They are afraid of being forcibly married to members of al-Shabaab or older men. Some are also afraid that their daughters will be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) or that they themselves will be re-cut after having been opened up in Norway.

Some, both men and women, state that they are afraid of al-Shabaab for other reasons. This could be because they have worked as journalists, been accused of spying for the government or have simply broken al-Shabaab’s rules.

In addition to the applicants’ statements, we always assess the security situation in the area they come from. At the moment, we do not believe that any parts of Somalia are so unsafe that everyone who comes from a certain area needs protection.

Everyone who seeks protection in Norway is obliged to assist in clarifying their identity. Applicants who have a passport must hand this in. Other documents may also be accepted as proof of identity. Applicants who do not have ID documents are obliged to do their best to obtain such documents.

We conclude that an applicant's identity is either substantiated or not substantiated:

Substantiated identity: We believe that it is probable that the applicant is who he says he is. Documents and the applicant's statement can help to substantiate their identity. As a rule, the identity of the applicant must be substantiated before a residence permit can be granted.

Not substantiated: We believe that it is not probable that the applicant is who he says he is. This is the case when the applicant has not helped to establish who he is and where he comes from, by, for example, providing incorrect information. The reason we believe the identity has not been substantiated must always be included in the decision.

In cases where we maintain the UDI's decision, it is usually not concluded whether the applicant's identity is substantiated or not.

From 1 August 2018, Norwegian authorities have accepted certain Somali passports as valid travel documents. Today, this applies to Somali passports issued by Somali embassies and passport offices in Somalia.

Although Somali passports are accepted as travel documents in Norway, this does not mean that Somali passports are sufficiently secure as the sole proof of a person's identity. This is because, for many years, Somalia has lacked public authorities that can verify a person's identity. This means that we cannot be certain that the information used to issue a Somali passport is accurate. Knowledge of a person's hometown and clan affiliation is therefore still important in assessing the identity of someone from Somalia.

Some Somalis possess other ID documents, but these are not given much weight. This is because all previous public archives and offices were destroyed or looted during the civil war in the 1990s. In some cases, we may give some consideration to documents issued before the civil war.

The UDI has made a video on how they assess identity in cases from Somalia. This applies to cases concerning protection, residence permits, citizenship, and in cases involving the revocation of permits. The video is subtitled in Norwegian and translated into Somali. You can watch the video on youtube.

In addition to the applicants’ statements, we always consider whether the area they come from is so dangerous that they need protection. We call this an assessment of the security situation. Both international case law and decisions made by several of UNE’s Grand Boards show that there is a high threshold for granting a permit on the basis of the security situation in a country.

In order to grant a permit on this basis, the general level of violence must be so high that any person will face a real danger simply by being in the area. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has stated several times that this is only relevant in extremely violent and turbulent situations.

In our assessment, no one is protected against refoulement to Somalia on grounds of the security situation alone. The security situation has changed over the years and may change again. The security situation also varies between different areas of Somalia.

Applicants say that they come from Mogadishu in many of the cases we process. There was a period from autumn 2010 until autumn 2012 where persons from Mogadishu were granted protection on grounds of the security situation alone. After 2012, no one has been granted protection on grounds of the security situation in Mogadishu.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has evaluated the security situation in Mogadishu several times since 2012 and has reached the same conclusion as UNE. The latest ECHR ruling is from 2015 (external link).  A grand board of UNE assessed the security situation in Mogadishu most recently in June 2017. Likewise, the UNHCR does not believe that there is a need for general protection against return for individuals from Somalia, but rather that each case should be evaluated individually. You can read the UNHCR's report here (external link).

In Mogadishu, there are regular reports of suicide attacks and assassinations carried out by, among others, al-Shabaab, targeting officials, soldiers from the African Union (ATMIS, formerly AMISOM), representatives from aid organizations, and journalists. The attacks are not directed at civilians, although civilians are also affected.

Most other cases we consider are from applicants who say they come from parts of South Somalia other than Mogadishu. We have consistently assessed the security situation in these areas as stable enough for applicants to return. Attacks and assassinations also occur in other parts of South Somalia, but to a lesser extent than in Mogadishu.

We consider few cases where the applicants say they are from Somaliland and Puntland. In these areas of Somalia, we believe that the security situation has been stable and good since the 1990s, and therefore no one is entitled to protection on that basis.

We rarely grant permissions in cases that the UDI has rejected. We have granted some permissions, both for protection (asylum) and residence on humanitarian grounds following a new assessment of our own decisions (requests for reversal). In the cases where permission is granted, it is usually due to changes in the complainant's situation, such as serious health problems or children's connection to Norway.

We change decisions where UNE has a different assessment of the complainant's identity than UDI. This often happens after the complainant has had the opportunity to explain themselves in a board meeting. In some case types, such as revocation of permits and expulsion, we also change the decision because it would be disproportionate for the foreigner or their family to leave Norway. Considerations regarding the complainant's health also lead us to change certain decisions.

Since Somalis live in all of Somalia’s neighbouring countries, identity is important. We need to know if the applicants come from Somalia or if they are Somalis from one of the neighbouring countries. As a starting point, we base our assessment on the applicants' own statements about who they are, where they come from, and which clan they belong to.

We use many different sources. Much of the information we use has been collected by Landinfo, a unit that prepares reports on topics that are important for UDI and UNE. Recommendations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, external link) are also important. We read reports from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO, external link), the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU, external link) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA, external link), among others. We also keep up to date with reports in the media and from other organisations.