Somali refugees in Eastleigh, Nairob. PHOTO | IRIN
IRIN–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.
Mulki Mahmood lives in a busy tenement block of two-bedroom apartments, narrow corridors, and billowing lines of washing in Nairobi’s working class suburb of Eastleigh.
As a Somali refugee and single mum, life has not been easy. The one bright spot was that she had finally been accepted for resettlement in the United States, and was expecting to swap her down-at-heal neighbourhood, with its criminal gangs and hand-to-mouth existence, for a new life with her daughter in Ohio.
But US President Donald Trump’s executive order on Friday, suspending refugee admissions for four months, has put Mahmood’s plans – like so many others – on hold.
“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.”
Mahmood, 30, has twice been a refugee. First as a child in 1992, escaping the start of the Somali Civil War. Then in 2003, after she had returned home, she was forced to flee again to Kenya, ending up in the Kakuma refugee camp.
Mahmood got married in Kakuma, but as soon as she gave birth, her husband divorced her. She had little choice but to come to Nairobi to look for work to support her child. She got set up selling snacks on the streets; always having to dodge the police demanding money, the threat being they can send you back to Kakuma.
Mahmood has also survived rape, attacked by a man until she fainted, according to the medical report from the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic she visited. All she wants, she says, is a future for herself and her daughter.
“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.”
Mahmood has been chasing resettlement for nine years. “I used to sleep outside the [UN refugee agency] UNHCR office in Westlands,” she laughed, her niqab off her face, relaxed. “Now my resettlement process is due, Don… I can’t even say his name, has put me on hold!”
Mahmood has a resettlement number but has not been given a travel date, so she is yet to properly begin the process of packing up her life in Kenya.
READ MORE: http://www.irinnews.org/feature/2017/02/02/blocked-trump-unwanted-kenya-somali-refugees-face-new-crisis-famine-looms
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