The “lottery”: Somali refugees in Africa stream to camps in hopes of going West

Here is an article from The National (a UAE newspaper?) this past week that explains why the flow of Somalis to camps will continue as long as there is hope that the US will scoop them up and bring them to a town near you.

UN officials are trying to deal with overcrowded camps along the Somali border.   One option is to move them a thousand miles to camps originally set up for Sudanese but increasingly empty because the Sudanese are going home. 

One option the United Nations is considering is moving Somali refugees across Kenya to camps originally set up for Sudanese refugees.

The Kakuma camp on Kenya’s north-western border holds 130,000 refugees from Sudan’s 22-year civil war. But since a peace deal was signed in 2005, most of the Sudanese refugees have returned home. Last year, 66,000 Sudanese were repatriated from Kakuma and the United Nations expects a further 50,000 to return this year.

As the camps near the Somali border continue to fill – 4,000 refugees are estimated to flee across the border every month – officials would like to move some of them to Kakuma.

OK, that sounds like a good plan, but the article goes on to give excuses why that would be difficult.  So, they send some here.

Since Somalia is still too dangerous to send refugees back home, UN officials have been trying to resettle them in other countries. But this is a slow process as refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries compete for the limited number of refugee resettlement spots that western countries make available.

About 3,000 refugees were resettled from Dadaab last year, mostly to the United States. This is still less than the amount arriving in the camps each month. Yet refugees hold out hope that they will be among the lucky ones to start a new life in the West.

“The refugees call it the lottery,” said Francesca Bonelli, a community services officer with the United Nations. “It is completely life changing if they get resettled. It is the big dream.”

As long as the UN and the US send any Somalis to the US, the spigot will remain open and the flow continue as Somalis play the lottery.   Put out the word that “refugees” will be sent a thousand miles to another camp across Africa and I bet they will stop arriving at the rate of 4000 a month.

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