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200 Somali Refugees in Kenya Are Blocked From Going to US

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Tuesday January 31, 2017

Part of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where an estimated 300,000 Somalis live. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

More than 200 refugees who had been heading to the U.S. for resettlement have been told they cannot travel as a result of President Donald Trump's executive orders that temporarily suspend all immigration of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, a Somali refugee and officials said Monday.

The refugees left Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp in eastern Kenya, last week but they have been told by the International Organization for Migration that their Monday flights have been cancelled "because of Trump's orders," said Suleiman Yusuf, a Somali refugee who is a teacher.

Yusuf said he has been waiting for 10 years to be resettled in the U.S. and his dream now faces an uncertain future. "I was to be resettled in Minnesota. I am a teacher by profession and have been teaching at Dadaab. I was hoping to start a new life in America but we are now stuck going back to Dadaab," he said. He was a headmaster at a Dadaab school.

A senior official with the U.N. refugee agency at the Dadaab camp said 286 Somali refugees from Dadaab and Kakuma, another camp in northern Kenya, were affected by Trump's ban. The official insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

The United Nations refugee agency media officer Yvonne Ndege said Monday that about 13,000 Somali refugees have been interviewed and approved by the United States Citizen and Immigration Services but their resettlement has been halted by the new order. An additional 13,000 Somali refugees have applied to be resettled in the U.S., according to Ndege.

The Kenyan government has said it will close the Dadaab camp by May and the refugees who want to go to the U.S. maybe at risk of being returned to war-torn Somalia when the camp is closed.

Kenya has hosted Somali refugees since the 1991 ouster of dictator Siad Barre by warlords who then turned on each other. Somalia has been wracked by violence and is struggling to rebuild amid an insurgency by al-Shabab, the Islamic extremists backed by al-Qaida. Kenya said it will shut down Dadaab because al-Shabab has infiltrated the refugee camp and is using it as a recruitment and training ground for terrorists.


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