NEW DELHI: Life turned upside down in the last nine months for M (name withheld), a Somali who was waiting to board a flight to the US to reunite with his 27-year-old wife in Ohio. Living in south Delhi, he is heart-broken as Donald Trump’s ban on refugees from select Muslim countries has shattered his hope of a reunion with his wife.
A native of Mogadishu, M told New Indian Express that he had been expecting to fly to the US soon but Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending the admission of refugees into the US for 120 days has left him heart-broken.
“It has created a great wall of separation for us. She cannot leave the US and I cannot go to the US now. We cannot even go back to Somalia,” he said.
Another Somali, Abu waited for 13 years in India as a refugee with his mother and four siblings to go to the US. His resettlement papers were under process in the US Homeland Security Department and a flight date seemed to appear on the horizon. He is now disheartened.
“I landed in Delhi in 2004 when I was just 13. Our papers have been under process for the past two years and we were expecting to go to the US within a few months. Now we are stuck. I don’t remember much of Mogadishu as I was very young when our family fled the country. Going back is not an option,” he says.
M and Abu are among 700 Somalis living in India. They are not the only one hit by the Trump order. There are Yemenis, Libyans, Sudanese and Iranians who face a similar uncertainty.
S, a 28-year-old Somali woman came to India 10 years ago after her parents were killed in strife-torn Mogadishu. She couldn’t even say goodbye to her sister before fleeing to India. “It is a very difficult situation. Suddenly when your time comes to go to US, there is Trump,” she says.
Why not from Saudis, Afghans?
Abu questions Trump’s selective targeting of six Muslim countries. Sitting in a South Delhi café, he questioned, “Some say the ban is a move to stop Islamic terrorism. Then why not Muslims from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan too?”
None of the terrorists who carried out terror strikes on US soil since 2001 came from the six nations on Trump ban list. The 9/11 attacks were carried out by an Al Qaeda module comprising of Saudi, UAE and Egyptian nationals. A Kuwaiti-born US citizen carried out the Tennessee shooting in which four Marines were killed.
In fact, the threat from homegrown terrorists is getting bigger in the US. According to a 2015 report by the US Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel, more than 250 individuals from the US have joined or attempted to fight alongside Islamic State.
Nicholas J. Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center said in a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the US has been able to reduce external threats but in the past few years the pool of potential homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) has widened. The FBI was investigating approximately 1,000 potential HVEs across all 50 states.
Why not Pakistan?
Curiously, Pakistan, which is notorious for nurturing terrorists, has been spared. The US has on many occasions acknowledged Pakistan’s role in its proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir through terror outfits raised and nurtured by islamabad.
Officers in the Indian security establishment believe that Pakistan is pre-empting Trump’s ire through its preventive detention of the most wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed and four others. Its recent ban on Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation is nothing but a charade, they say.
“Pakistan is trying to show that it is acting tough against terrorists. But US must realize that Pakistan continues to nurture terror groups who are targeting India,” they said.
Trump’s warmed-up gruel?
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that the new refugee order inflicts harm upon refugees themselves. “Trump’s new executive order is just warmed-up gruel,” said Grace Meng, senior researcher at HRW. “In the name of fighting terrorism, the new order will only scapegoat refugees. It will abandon tens of thousands of refugees who need to be taken out of precarious situations, and cedes US leadership on a vitally important global issue,” she said.
Commenting on Trump’s executive order, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement: “The imperative remains to provide protection for people fleeing deadly violence, and we are concerned that this decision, though temporary, may compound the anguish for those it affects.”
According to a July 2013 UNHCR report, its India office assists over 24,000 refugees and asylum seekers from various countries. During standard registration interviews UNHCR flags vulnerable cases for possible resettlement as refugees cannot apply for resettlement on their own and cannot pick their country of resettlement. UNHCR screens and interviews each resettlement candidate.