Somalia is the third largest contingent of refugees admitted to the US and makes up the vast majority of refugee admissions from Africa (along with the Demcoratic Republic of Cong); almost 100,000 Somali refugees have been resettled in the US since 9/11, including nearly 9,000 in 2016 alone. Currently Kenya hosts the most Somali refugees, 326,000 of which reside in Dadaab refugee camp along the Kenya-Somali border. Opened at the outbreak of Somalia’s civil war in 1991, Dadaab has become the world’s largest refugee camp and functions more like a mini-city, with many of the camps younger residents having never seen their home country and yet unable to leave the camp given the Kenyan government’s strict movement policies for refugees. However in May 2016, the Kenyan government announced plans to close the camp, pushing many Somali refugees to opt into a “voluntary repatriation” program which would return them to Somalia and earning international condemnation for essentially forcing refugees to return to a conflict state.
Though the Kenyan government originally planned to have the camp closed by November 2016, it has since pushed its deadline after Somali officials announced in October that they would no longer accept Somali returnees from Dadaab noting resource restraints and security concerns in their relocation. Now Somali refugees in Kenya are in a state of limbo – living as refugees in a country that does not want them, unable to return to their home country, and – for the many who spent five to ten years to earn resettlement in the U.S. – losing hope for their dreamed future in the U.S.