Languishing in Limbo – Somali Refugees in Kenya

“I’m just asking for our humanity to be respected, because we are not related

to any group causing mayhem or instability.”

A special feature in IRIN which looks at the deepening crisis facing Somali refugees describes their situation as “extremely negative”. In his feature, Obi Anyadike, IRIN’s Africa Editor, writing from Nairobi (2 February 2017) states:

“Somali refugees have no good options any more. With Kenya vowing to close the Dadaab refugee camp within months and resettlement to the United States suspended, many will succumb to growing pressure to return home, where al-Shabab militants and a potential famine await.”

Caught in the vicious triangle of “Trump, Kenya and drought”, refugees are, literally, caught between a granite rock and a hard place. And if they have another option, it is between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea of the Mediterranean and an increasingly unsympathetic European Union.

Anyadike looks at the crisis through the eyes of 30 year old Mulki Mahmood, a divorced mother, struggling to keep herself and her young daughter alive. This is her second experience of being a refugee.

She had been, until Holocaust Day 2017, accepted for resettlement in the USA, after nine years of waiting. Now, she must reconsider her options as a Muslim from one of the seven countries named in President Trump’s Executive Order suspending resettlement. With America and Europe closing their borders and Kenya’s policies toughening, Mahmood, now suspended in limbo, faces the prospect of returning home to Somalia if the USA remains off-limits.

“We’ve been vetted, and vetting is good,” she told IRIN. “I’m just asking for our humanity to be respected, because we are not related to any group causing mayhem or instability.”

Like all refugees and immigrants, Mahmood has her reasons and her dreams for wanting to begin a new life in America: “Men here don’t respect you as a single mother, they misuse you,” she told IRIN. “America is a great country. People’s rights and women’s rights are respected. I can educate my daughter and maybe get married.”

Dadaab Refugee Camp (Photo: courtesy of UNHCR)

Resettlement has been her driving force for nine years. Mahmood has a resettlement number but while her resettlement was imminent she had not been given a travel date for herself and her daughter. “Now my resettlement process is due, Don… I can’t even say his name, has put me on hold!”

Refugees in Kenya are being squeezed, with little option but to consider going home or to aimlessly wander, a prospect which becomes all the more alarming with the Kenyan Government’s declared intention to close the Dadaab refugee camp.

Even the thought of trying to make it to the European Union is increasingly futile in the wake of lucrative deals the EU has struck with Kenya and neighboring countries, aimed at keeping refugees in Africa.

In Kenya, Somali refugees are languishing in limbo.

Obi Anyadike’s full report may be accessed here:

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