My colleague, Dara McLeod, and I are about to begin a mission to two neighboring countries in the center of Africa that are experiencing full-scale humanitarian crises: the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. Fighting inside each country has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
At the same time that the Kenyan government is ramping up pressure for Somali refugees to return home, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has released new international protection considerations for people fleeing southern and central Somalia. The guidelines highlight the continued risks that these people face and stress the need for ongoing international protection of Somali asylum-seekers.
I am sitting here in my room on a rainy Monday to write an essay about the challenges we as refugees face here in Nairobi. I just got back from school, and as I made my way home I held my breath until I reached my room. I am lucky I am here another day: safe and sound.
On December 16 last year, refugees began to flood across the border from South Sudan into Uganda as a result of an outbreak of violence in their country of origin. In the past two months the number of new arrivals has grown to roughly 66,000. They are being hosted in three areas: Adjumani, Arua, and Kiryandongo.
In January, tens of thousands of African asylum seekers and Israeli citizens demonstrated against the government's deeply flawed asylum policy. They railed against its refusal to consider applications for protection and its policy of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers without charge or cause. Thousands of asylum seekers walked out of their jobs in restaurants, hotels, and other businesses as a way of demonstrating their concrete value to Israeli society. Some of those same businesses even provided food to the demonstrators in a show of support.
This post originally appeared at Politix.
It was unbelievably festive on the day, July 9, 2011, that South Sudan became the world's newest independent country. From the United States, President Barack Obama sent a message that "the map of the world has been redrawn," and South Sudan's popularly-elected leader, Salva Kiir, declared that "the eyes of the world are on us now."
This week, Israel submitted a legal brief to the High Court of Justice stating that it would stop issuing birth certificates to the children of foreigners born in the country. This new policy is purportedly intended to prevent migrants from making a claim to citizenship based on birth in Israel (an impossibility as Israeli law does not provide for this benefit unless at least one parent is a citizen of Israel). However, it may have the unintentional consequence of creating new stateless populations.
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.
There is always a convenient excuse. In Haiti, we don't have the time. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we don't have the funding. In the Syrian refugee response, we don't have the experts. Somehow, there is always a pat answer to why we, the humanitarian community, fail to protect women and girls in emergency after emergency.