By Josh Leach on October 17, 2017
This weekend’s bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia is an appalling violation of human rights. Nearly 300 people were killed, and hundreds of others wounded when a truck bomb detonated near a fuel tanker in an apparent attack by the militant group Al-Shabaab. UUSC extends our condolences to the victims and expresses solidarity with all those impacted by the loss of loved ones, the escalation of conflict, and the further destabilization of a region facing violence and famine.
This attack emphasizes the urgency of allowing the safe travel and resettlement of Somali refugees and immigrants at a time when the White House is targeting Somali travelers with increased scrutiny, deportation, and outright bans. Somali refugees in Ethiopia, several who already had U.S. visas, were among the hundreds of vulnerable people left stranded after the administration announced its initial travel and refugee bans in late January. The latest version of Trump’s travel ban, widely referred to as “Muslim Ban 3.0,” extended the restrictions on Somali travelers indefinitely and is set to go into effect this week.
Congress first designated Somalia for for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1991, following the collapse of the Somali central government and the country’s descent into chaos and civil war. TPS has been renewed continuously since then, as the conflict has drawn on, with the current designation lasting through September 2018. However, the Trump administration’s recent decision to revoke TPS for Somalia’s East African neighbor Sudan, which is also experiencing conflict and food insecurity, raises grave concerns about the program’s future. Moreover, TPS only applies to Somali immigrants who can prove presence in the United States since 2012. In April, the Trump administration announced plans to renew deportations of 5,000 Somalis not protected by TPS.
As in many places affected by the administration’s travel ban, the United States plays a role in the violence currently destabilizing Somalia and the region. The conflict between militant group Al-Shabaab and the Somali government dates back to a 2007 U.S.-backed Ethiopian intervention and reports as recent as last month indicate that the Trump administration is planning to further increase the number of unlawful drone strikes in the country.
The United States cannot disclaim its responsibilities to refugees and asylum-seekers, least of all in those places that have borne the brunt of its military actions. UUSC calls on the government to re-designate Somalia for TPS and to abandon all forms of its unconstitutional travel bans. These actions will help ensure that more innocent lives are not lost to callous acts of violence.