Fear was never so close to me in Nairobi than on September 21 of this year, when Al Shabab gunmen stormed the Westgate Mall. I was with some friends at the time in a small makeshift tea shop on a street in Eastleigh, where many Somalis live. Everyone in that area was going about their business.
When I first heard about the attack, I followed the news on radio and TV. My assumption was that what was happening in Westgate was a robbery, but everything instantly changed when it was announced that Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab was responsible. I froze in fear.
On Saturday, militants stormed the Westgate mall in downtown Nairobi, throwing grenades and executing shoppers and diners. The latest death toll stands at 67, but bodies are still being recovered from the damaged building so that number could rise.
It has been nearly a year since Somalia established a new federal government, ostensibly ending years of political transition. Some areas in Somalia are indeed experiencing increased stability and economic revival, but overall, a severe and complex humanitarian crisis continues and many challenges remain – especially for the country’s 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
On Friday, the High Court of Kenya issued a landmark decision on refugee rights. The court struck down a December 2012 government directive that would have forced all refugees living in cities to relocate to camps and suspended all registration and support services for city-dwelling refugees and asylum-seekers.
In the United States, the green card signifies permanent resident status. Many people have to live and work in the U.S. for years, on temporary visas, before obtaining a green card. However, the Diversity Visa Program, known as "the green card lottery," gives 50,000 people from across the world the chance to relocate to the U.S.
I have experienced many challenges living as a refugee in Nairobi for two years. The first challenge is security, which is not guaranteed. I live in Eastleigh, a small neighborhood that has become a Somali enclave. A series of explosions took place here after Kenyan troops entered Somalia.
This caused a reaction among Kenyans, who blamed Somali refugees. Although there is an increased police presence in the area, Somalis are afraid of the police because of the way that they behave towards them.
This post originally appeared at The Refugee.
When the Kenyan government announced in December last year that all Somali refugees living in cities must move to the Dadaab refugee camp, I made plans to visit that camp. I wanted to see the place that was already home to hundreds of thousands of Somalis, and where the government planned to pack in thousands more.
Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp is the largest of its kind in the world: a sprawling, jam-packed community housing nearly half a million vulnerable Somali refugees. During a visit this week to one section of the camp, known as Kambioos, my Refugees International colleague and I met a young Somali man named Ahmed who had just arrived by bus from Nairobi.
Since December, when the Government of Kenya announced that all city-dwelling refugees must move into camps, the situation for tens of thousands refugees has become unbearable. But the good news today is that the Kenyan High Court has granted a temporary order prohibiting the government from implementing its plans.