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.
My colleague Melanie Teff and I have begun a two-week mission in Kenya to assess conditions for Somali refugees. Though we are both eager to get underway, I wish our mission was taking place under different circumstances.
This is an extremely difficult time to be a Somali in Kenya, with the government announcing last month that refugees in urban areas will have to leave the cities and report to refugee camps. The government has also shut down the registration of refugees in urban areas and instructed aid agencies to suspend urban refugee services.
As the 67th General Assembly opens this week, and as the United Nations gears up for the countless high-level meetings and side events that follow, the enormity of the challenges facing the UN is striking.
Mark Yarnell, RI's advocate for the Horn of Africa, appeared on Capitol Hill following his recent mission to Kenya and Ethiopia. He told members of Congress that political leverage (not just aid money) is needed to ensure Somali refugees get the help they need.
As Mark told members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives, "where we do have control, and where we do have access, it is our responsibility to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable are being met."
At last week's London Conference on Somalia, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called for a “firm and durable” solution to the refugee crisis. This includes the return of Somali refugees from the camps in Kenya’s northeast back over the border into Somalia.
This post originally appeared at African Arguments, the blog of the Royal African Society.