Despair endangers Dadaab refugees as smugglers seize their moment

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Despair endangers Dadaab refugees as smugglers seize their moment

January 9, 2019| Arlaadi Online

Unsafe in Somalia and unwanted in Kenya, refugees increasingly risk abduction in search of a better life 

Young refugees at Kenya’s sprawling Dadaab refugee complex during a visit from Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai

Young refugees at Kenya’s sprawling Dadaab refugee complex are seen during a visit from Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Two months after he went missing from the Dadaab refugee complex, Abdullahi Mohamed called his mother, Ubah, from a detention centre in Libya where he was being been held by armed gangs. The men asked his mother to pay a ransom of up to $10,000 (£7,850) for the 19-year-old.

Relieved but distraught, Ubah started fundraising for his release, talking to family members in the diaspora and in Somalia.

“I managed to get some money but it is far less than they demand,” she says. “I will continue to contact relatives so that we can secure his release as soon as possible.”

Abdullahi was in his second year of secondary school when he went missing. He spent most of his time in the camp playing football.

“He loves football and dreams of playing in the English Premier League,” Ubah says. “He used to tell me that he would become a celebrity one day and that I would be overwhelmed by journalists looking for his whereabouts.”

Abdullahi is among a handful of young men who left Dadaab last year and were smuggled to Libya through Sudan, according to camp leaders.

Abdullahi told his mother he had left with a group of young Somalis from the camps, some of whom are yet to be connected with their families.

Refugees in Dadaab say the travel ban imposed by Donald Trump, which affected refugee resettlement programmes, has had a devastating impact on the hopes of young people in the camps. Many had been waiting for years only to be told they cannot travel.

Ahmed Dhake is among several hundred refugees in Kenya who were stopped from travelling to the US in 2017. The thought of illegal migration occurred to him, but family ties held him back. “I could not leave my elderly mother behind,” he says. “I am not surprised to see people using the illegal route to escape Dadaab, because the legal pathways are not working.” Read more Despair endangers Dadaab refugees as smugglers seize their moment

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