by Abdullahi Hussein
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
FILE- Deported Somali nationals gesture as they arrive at the airport in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu, April 9, 2014. Sixty-eight Somalis arrived in Mogadishu Friday, having been deported by U.S. immigration authorities.
Since the beginning of this year, the immigration authorities of the United States with the assistance of the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C. have sent two chartered planes full of asylum seekers to Mogadishu. The first plane with 90 people reached Mogadishu in late January and the second one with 68 deportees in March 2017.
Previously all attempts by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport failed asylum seekers back to Somalia failed because of a lack of cooperation by Somali local authorities especially Somaliland and Puntland governments who did not want encourage other countries who previously tolerated the presence of Somalis in their midst to follow suit and deport them en masse. Moreover, deporting more Somalis back to Somalia where there are already very limited opportunities for employment or access to basic health and education will seriously strain local resources.
The question is what has changed since then? Obviously, the only thing that happened is the so-called recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia by the United States Government. This resulted the opening of the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C. However, this recognition was merely a photo op because the United States did not reciprocate this gesture and thereby relocate its embassy from Nairobi, Kenya to Mogadishu, Somalia. Nonetheless, this initiative led the United States to successfully relaunch its efforts of sending back asylum seekers back to Somalia.
One of the purposes of an embassy in a foreign country is to afford its citizens with consular services including prison visits if one is detained. However, the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C., never pays any visits to detained Somali nationals in various immigration detention centers in the United States. Instead, the embassy prepares travel documents for the detainees at the request of the United Stated immigration authorities in order to facilitate their deportation. The Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C., miserably failed to uphold its basic responsibility to ensure that the detainees are indeed firstly Somali nationals and secondly are voluntarily willing to go back to Somalia. Strangely, the embassy only requires the immigration authorities to submit handwritten letters in Somali on behalf of detainees and then arbitrarily issues travel documents that are used for their deportation to Somalia. According to a news article in San Diego Union Tribune, an American local attorney was able to get three detainees off the deportation flight list because they were pressured to write and sign the letters:
“...Local immigration attorney Robin Carr said she worried that at least some on the flight had felt pressure to write and sign the letters. She said she’d helped three of her Somali clients get off the list for the flight either through a court order or by showing the Somali embassy that the handwritten letter process hadn’t happened.”
Obviously, the job of verifying who is actually not only a Somali national but also willing to voluntarily go back to Somalia was that of the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C. and not for local American attorneys. To understand their logic, I placed calls to the embassy but those calls went unanswered and there wasn’t a voice messaging system to leave messages.
Therefore, I strongly appeal to President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo to intervene on behalf of helpless Somali asylum seekers in U.S. detention centers and to order the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C, to cease and desist issuing travel documents to detainees whose identities the embassy is not sure about and to interview those who are actually Somali nationals to ascertain whether they are willing to voluntarily go back to Somalia. Moreover, the Federal Government of Somalia has to seriously assess the usefulness and the worthiness of the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C. since all it does is to harm rather than help helpless Somalis in the United States.