At least 140 Somali refugees set to leave for US sent back to camp

File: AP
File: AP

Nairobi - At least 140 Somali refugees whose resettlement in the United States this week was stopped by President Donald Trump's executive order have been sent back to their refugee camp instead, one of the refugees said on Saturday.

It was not clear why they were sent back a day after a US court order blocked Trump's ban on travellers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia. Officials with the International Organisation for Migration, which runs the transit centre in Nairobi where the refugees had been waiting for their flights to the US, could not be reached for comment.

"How would you feel? One day you are telling friends bye, wishing them well, and the next you are back where you started," 28-year-old refugee Nadir Hassan told The Associated Press. "My home for 27 years was a refugee camp. I was hoping to start a new life in the US, get an education, a job, a life. We feel bad."

The fate of the Somali refugees is especially uncertain because Kenya's government has vowed to close their Dadaab camp, the world's largest, by the end of May, citing security concerns. Kenyan officials say the refugees will be returned to neighbouring Somalia, where the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab extremist group continues to carry out deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.

The Kenyan government says al-Shabaab uses Dadaab as a recruiting and training ground for extremists who attack Kenya, but it has not presented any proof.

Human rights groups have protested Kenya's plans to close Dadaab, saying some of the more than 250 000 refugees there have reported being pressured to leave the camp and that Somalia remains too unstable for people to return home. Refugees who have heeded Kenya's call to voluntarily leave have said they felt betrayed because assurances of safety and support went unfulfilled in Somalia.

A spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, Yvonne Ndege, said on Saturday the agency was looking at other ways of settling the refugees, including moving them to another camp in Kenya, Kakuma, which houses mostly people from South Sudan.

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