COMMENTARY - Jan 19 2005

By M.M. Afrah©


“Refugee” defines as any person who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her home country because of persecution of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, and membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

A case in point is a mother of seven kids in Britain.

1)     She is a single mother trying to raise seven kids;

2)     She belongs to the Reer Hamar Community, which has almost ceased to exist;

3)     Her younger sister (a member of the same clan) was granted refugee status;

4)     The immigration judge (s) and officials from the Home Office (Britain’s Interior Ministry) were fully aware that the security situation in Southern Somalia has deteriorated since 1991;

5)     The weaker clans in the minority groups are now worse off;

6)     That her father was mercilessly killed in the continuing clan conflicts;

7)     That her mother’s whereabouts is still unknown;

8)     That a violent armed gangs loyal to a dozens of warlords and freelancers rule freely in almost 95% of Southern Somalia, including the capital;

9)     That even the newly elected government and parliament in exile in neighbouring Kenya are unable to relocate to the country they were elected to rule, citing insecurity;

10) Because of their light skins, unwary Reer Hamars, is being used by the Somali warlords as “Arab terrorists” belonging to the Al-Qaeda network in order to stimulate money from US intelligent agents. Many of these innocent people are languishing in US detention centers without access to legal council; As recently as 2004 a number of Reer Hamars and Bravans have been apprehended and handed over to CIA agents who kidnapped them out of the country, while the warlords have been laughing all the way to their bank accounts abroad.


This single mother of seven has failed four times to win an appeal to stay in Britain on compassionate grounds. On two occasions officials from the Home Office failed to appear at the court hearing. On another occasion she was accused of failing to appear before the judge, although she had traveled a long distance by bus to appear before the immigration judge. To prove, she had retained her bus ticket, showing the exact date and time of her journey to the court house. Again, she failed refugee claimant and has been ordered expelled.


A huge number of Somali refugees arrived in Britain to seek asylum in the immediate aftermath of the civil war in their own country. These included war criminals and riff-raffs that should have been deported or taken to war crimes tribunals, but are still there smiling somewhere. Needless to say there was huge outcry from the Conservative Party and a section of the British public, and the media. As a result the Immigration Department was ordered to initiate deportation procedure. They did. They arrested bona fide refugees who they considered as soft target. These included couples with children, single mothers who lost their husbands in the civil war, the elderly and members of the minority clans, and the consequence of removing genuine refugees, were in general, ill-conceived and in many cases, potentially cruel.


They are being pushed in two different directions—between the Home Office (Britain’s Interior Ministry) and immigration judges and finally snapped. No wonder many who lost their appeals often hear voices and are unstable, and unhinged.


Back to the single mother with the seven kids: In our view the Home Office officials who repeatedly failed to appear at the hearing have created a major handicap in handling the case. Evidently, this was a derelict of duty and contempt of court, and for breaching court order, and that appropriate action should have been taken against them.


We are of the opinion that this mother and her children should be allowed to remain in Britain on compassionate ground, as the risk to deport her to war-torn Somalia is very grave. As a member of the oppressed ethnic minority clans she and her children would face irreparable harm if they were returned to lawless Somalia, a view shared by Amnesty International and other human rights groups.


                              THE CASE AGAINST OMAR JAMAL


Another case in point is Omar Jamal in Minneapolis (in the US State of Minnesota). Omar’s Advocacy Center was instrumental in helping Somali refugees realize that there’s justice and fairness for everyone in the United States, and he embarked upon rectifying injustice and hostilities against the newcomers, not only in the State of Minnesota but the rest of the United States as well.


Omar catapulted to fame among his people when he came to the assistance of illiterate helpless refugees until he himself became a victim of immigration officials, who accused him of lying at his own immigration hearing decades ago, at a time when he and his fellow country were traumatized and shell shocked following the brutal civil war in their own country, that still continues with no end in sight. The immigration honchos called him a person of interest, whatever that means and initiated deportation order against him.


Only heartless people would send the refugees back to that inferno, where street gangs make their own rules. Even members of the new Somali cabinet-in-exile expressed fears of their country’s safety unless peace keepers are sent there to protect them and disarm the more than 60,000 militia gunmen loyal to the warlords and the freelancers.


The significant qualities of this young man cannot be underestimated. Like the great Civil Rights leader of the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. Omar Jamal for a very long time was able to expound, expose and extricate Immigration authorities many wrongs. And like Martin Luther King Jr. his tactics of protest and advocacy involved non-violent and passive resistance to injustice committed against his countrymen.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security was quoted by The Star Tribune newspaper as saying that 3,568 Somalis nationwide have been ruled deportable. Most are on parole, but Keyse Jama, a young Somali, is still behind bars after five years of legal battle. On Wednesday the US Supreme Court decided 5-4 that the US government can deliver deportees into a country without a government accepting them at the other end!


The most infuriating part is that immigration officials and courts turn down appeals without interviews. These measures are designed to shield tears and destructions their decisions would cause, even in cases where children are involved.


Now, the tough question that needs to be asked is: who is going to protect the refugees in a country where the new local industry is kidnapping for ransom, and when an elected government-in-exile is requesting peacekeeping forces to protect them from predators in their own country—a country they were supposed to rule?


Commentary: by M. M. Afrah©2005


Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two decades".