On December 6, a chartered plane carrying more than 40 Somali nationals landed in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport. On arrival, they were removed from the plane and placed on a private jet and flown to Mogadishu.
Some of these individuals have never seen Somalia or they were there when they were young, and have built lives in the US.
The deportees have been languishing under ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention for over a year before they were deported.
A few of them were pulled off the flight at the last minute, according to Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who was leading a group of lawyers trying to keep the Somalis in the US.
Since taking office in January 2017, The Trump administration has devised measures to slow immigration and remove people from the US, and terminated TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for some countries.
“These were 40+ men with their own stories, lives, and experiences. Listening to their families here in the U.S. just breaks you at times. Our system is broken, the whole damn thing,” Ayoub said.
“When we started our work on Somali removals we were told that up to 4,000 Somalis are either in removal proceedings, or could be placed in removal proceedings. This is a significant number. I would not put it past ICE that they increase enforcement efforts in the community.”
What makes this even more troublesome is the role the Somali government played in facilitating the removal of these individuals.
The US pressures foreign governments to sign travel documents and do what they can to facilitate the removal of their nationals from the U.S. This is the way the system works.
The US is engaged in Somalia conflict, using Special Forces and airstrikes against al Shabab militants, and provides assistance to the Somali National Army. The US also provides humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa country, spending 3 billion dollars since 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees.
Two years ago, ICE started raids in the Somali community. The community and the Somali Embassy were very vocal and put a stop to it. With a change in leadership at the Embassy the green light for raids will be given.
Somalis in the US continue to be targeted by ICE. Many of them have been there for decades and it is upsetting to see them rooted and sent to harm’s way.
If the Department of Homeland Security does not renew TPS, this will put hundreds of more Somali nationals in danger of being placed in removal proceedings, Ayoub told The Frontier.
The homeland security department renewed, but did not redesignate TPS for Somalis, allowing hundreds of Somalis to stay until March 2020. TPS protects foreign nationals already in the US when civil unrest, violence or natural disasters erupt in their home country.
TPS helps people to get employed, get drivers’ license as well as open bank accounts.
Somalia is one of the six Muslim-majority countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban. The country is still not safe for Somalis returning from the West.
Although Somalia is recovering from decades of unrest, it is still not safe, especially those returning from abroad. Al Shabab is still a threat and controls swathes of land and continues to target government installations as well as civilians.
US drones targeting al Shabab fighters are killing innocent Somalis in the process.
On March 28, a Somali deportee was among 15 killed when a car bomb exploded outside a hotel in Mogadishu’s Maka al Mukarama Road.
The new deportees could be become targets or get recruited into armed groups.
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