In December 2013, in Juba, South Sudan, fighting broke out between soldiers of the Nuer and Dinka ethnicity within the presidential guard. This fighting quickly spread throughout the country, as many Dinka aligned themselves with the country’s president, Salva Kiir, and many Nuer aligned themselves with the former vice president, Riek Machar. Since then, 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
In November of 2013, the government of Saudi Arabia began expelling large numbers of foreign nationals, including some 550,000 Yemenis, 180,000 Ethiopians, and 36,000 Somalis. While there has been little international attention or condemnation of these deportations, the returning individuals and their countries of origin have suffered many logistical, economic, and social ramifications due to this decision.
After decades of war punctuated by drought and famine, signs have emerged in recent years that Somalia may be heading toward a more peaceful and prosperous future. The terrorist group Al Shabab has been driven out of the capital and other areas (although attacks and assassinations are still a regular occurrence), a federal government has been elected and – despite limited capacity – assumed the reins of power, and economic projects are being planned and implemented.
In Australia, the navy is intercepting boats in international waters and incarcerating asylum seekers in floating prisons. In Kenya, the government is deporting refugees to Somalia, despite the continued armed conflict and the increasingly serious drought in that country. Sudan has recently returned a group of refugees to Eritrea, one of the most authoritarian countries in the world. And the United States is refusing to admit many Mexican children who arrive at its border, despite mounting evidence that they are escaping from life-threatening and gang-related violence.
#BringBackOurGirls. This slogan has been trending since April, when the Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school in Borno State, Nigeria. Countless celebrities around the world – including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama – have lent their voices to the social media campaign. But three months later, “our girls” have not been brought back. Although reports say approximately 50 have managed to escape, 276 girls are still missing.
Four months ago, the Kenyan government launched a major crackdown against Somali refugees living in urban areas that involved mass arrests, extortion, and even deportations back to Somalia. This week, my colleague, Alice Thomas, and I are traveling to Kenya to assess the deteriorating situation for those refugees.
On December 15th, 2013, violence broke out in the young nation of South Sudan. What began with accusations from President Salva Kiir of an attempted coup d’état by former Vice President Riek Machar has since enflamed underlying ethnic tensions and sparked a much larger conflict in which more than 10,000 people have died.
“There was war in my home. The Mai Mai came to our village and burned everything there. I came here with my wife and eight children two months ago with nothing but the clothes on our backs. I came to this village to try to get some food.” These are the words of Emmanuel, an internally displaced man in northern Katanga Province. “Look,” he said, pointing to a makeshift house of branches and leaves. “We have no shelter, and no food.”