The U.S. is home to about 7 percent of the world’s Somali migrant population.
Two months after the first chartered plane with Somalis took off in January, a surge in Somali deportations — with an estimated 4,000 to come — has been reported by the Somali embassy in Washington, D.C.
Ahmed Isse Awad, the Somali ambassador to the U.S, told VOA news, “We learned through immigration sources that the total number of Somalis that are in the books of (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to be removed are close to 4,000,” adding that “most of them are not in detention centers.”
January marked the first time since the collapse of the Somali government in 1991 that so many migrants were sent back to the conflict-ridden region. According to ICE, the number of Somalis on the flight were half the total number of Somalis deported in 2016, which was under 200 for the entire year.
The surge has been attributed to a backlog of detainees under the Barack Obama administration. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, U.S authorities were unable to return Somalis with deportation orders earlier due to the conflict in the region. Somalia is also one of the six Muslim nations that have been targeted by President Donald Trump for immigrant and refugee bans.
Awad told the Union-Tribune that since last summer, the U.S. had been sending at least two to three people back to Somalia by commercial flights each month. But a few months ago, ICE officials approached the embassy seeking travel documents for a large number of Somalis.
“We are legally bound to produce the documents, but I would have appealed for these people to not be returned because of the danger that may occur to them by Al-Shabaab (a terrorist organization aligned with Al-Qaeda),” he said.
In January, Trump issued executive orders that made all undocumented immigrants vulnerable. According to the Washington Post, the arrests of immigrants with no criminal records has more than doubled under the Trump administration.
According to the Pew Research center, over 1 million Somalis have been displaced as a result of the decades-long civil war in the country. The U.S. is home to about 7 percent of the world’s Somali migrant population.
Significant Somali populations, also including refugees, live in Atlanta, Boston, Nashville, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Portland, San Diego and the D.C. area. Between 2001 and 2015, the U.S. admitted over 90,000 refugees from Somalia.