For Stranded Somali Refugees, ‘Friend of America’ Is a Deadly Label

NAIROBI, Kenya — Ismail Ali Ibrahim gave away everything he owned: his bed, his sheets, his shirts, his pots, his pans, his plates, even his house.
He didn’t care. He was going to America.
But this week, he remained 7,000 miles away, marooned with more than 100 other Somali refugees in a spartan transit center in central Nairobi that smelled of nervous sweat.

Mr. Ibrahim and many of his displaced comrades had been waiting more than two decades to be resettled in the United States and were supposed to fly to America this week. But their hopes were crushed by President Trump’s executive order to freeze the refugee flow into the United States for at least four months.
Mr. Ibrahim was much closer than most — so close that, with his ticket, paperwork and bag all zipped up, the thought of it made his voice quiver. He had waited 26 long years for this, living in a sweltering, crowded, disease-ridden refugee camp along the Kenya-Somalia border that is the opposite of hope.

Now his worst fears are shaping up. The Somali refugees who had already been extensively vetted and approved by several American government agencies will most likely be bused back to the camps. Many said that they feared for their lives and that their situation was actually worse than it had been before they came so close to leaving.
“Trump shocked us,” Mr. Ibrahim said.
Most of them are now broke, having just two weeks ago given away their worldly possessions in a spree of happiness to friends less fortunate. But more worrisome, many refugees said as they gathered under the shade of a mango tree at the transit center, was the risk that they could be labeled “friends of America.” That’s a dangerous tag in a poorly policed refugee camp crawling with Islamic militants.

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