Travel ban leaves US-bound Somali refugees stranded in Kenya

Trump gave an executive order barring citizens from Somalia and some other countries from entering the US

Donald Trump.

Trump on Friday gave an executive order barring citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days

A majority of the 275,000 residents of the camp located in north-eastern Kenya are Somali.

About 100 refugees who were preparing to leave for the United States have been blocked in a transit centre of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said Mohamed Ilka-Ase, one of the refugees.

“The feeling is really devastating, the refugees left everything they had, including businesses, careers  going back to Dadaab will mean starting over again as refugees, like we did in 1991,’’ he said.

More than 90 per cent of Dadaab’s residents are Somalis, some of who have lived there since the early 1990s, when the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship plunged the country into chaos.

Others have arrived in recent years, fleeing the instability created by the violent campaign of the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab.

“Officials from the US embassy and IOM visited us and told us how sorry they were and now we are going to return,’’ Ilka-Ase said.

Christelle van Rosmalen, resettlement officer for the UN refugee agency UNHCR at Dadaab, said that IOM has “cancelled all the scheduled flights for Somali refugees, and they will remain in the IOM transit centre till further notice.’’

“We were booked for a flight, everything was ready, including permits,’’ said another refugee, Adan Barre, who had a flight from Nairobi to Louisville, Kentucky.

“We were suddenly told we should wait for 121 days; we have nowhere to go back."

“Our food ration card in Dadaab has been blocked and alien IDs have been taken away, since we got resettlement,’’ Barre complained.

Barre said: “According to the UNHCR database, we are in America.’’

“We sold everything we had, we have spent more than 20 years waiting for this day, now that it is here, we can’t go, it is really traumatising".

Van Rosmalen said that UNHCR had stopped submitting new cases for resettling Somalis in the U.S. for the coming months.

“We will focus on the cases already submitted to the U.S. and ensure they are up to date,’’ she added.

Kenya has announced plans to close Dadaab, which it regards as a recruiting ground for al-Shabaab.

The group frequently stages attacks in Kenya over the country’s inclusion in African Union troops fighting the militants in Somalia.

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