The U.S. Administration announced it will extend but not redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalia. While welcome news for the 250 beneficiaries of this status currently, this decision fails to protect those Somalis who arrived in the U.S. after March 2017. This decision arbitrarily puts some Somalis in jeopardy at a time when the U.S. State Department itself strongly advises against any travel to Somalia due to violence and instability in the country.
“Somalia has been decimated by decades of war and humanitarian disasters”, said Richard Crothers, Somalia Country Director at the International Rescue Committee. Corther added, “Today, the situation remains fragile as the after effects of the last year’s severe drought and subsequent flooding continue to wreak havoc on vulnerable populations who lost their entire livelihoods.”
The IRC has been on the ground in Somalia since 1981 and currently provides humanitarian aid to 280,000 people per year. Since 2017, the IRC has been scaling up its emergency response measures across multiple fronts.
Numerous factors including the lack of a fully-functioning government since 1991, climate change, continuing tensions between clans, and difficulty accessing basic health services combined makes Somalia one of the world’s largest chronic humanitarian crises. As a result;
5.4 million people (over a third of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 2.7 million people are in humanitarian emergency and crisis.
Some 1.2 million children in Somalia are projected to be acutely malnourished in 2018—an increase of 50 percent over the previous year.
Record levels of rainfall this year have seen an estimated 795,000 people affected by flooding across Somalia, with more than 230,000 temporarily displaced.
Militant groups continue to be a security risk, including the abduction of young men as a target for recruitment to bolster the group’s dwindling ranks.
By extending TPS the Administration sends a clear signal that it recognizes Somalia is unsafe for returns, yet in failing to re-designate the status paradoxically leaves some Somalis at risk of return back to harm. This decision is just the latest manifestation of ongoing protection rollbacks in the U.S.–from the drastic decline in refugee resettlement to narrowing the interpretation of who is eligible for asylum in the US. to the forcible separation of parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Just 250 Somali refugees have been resettled to the U.S. in the first nine months of FY18–a stark 99% drop compared to the same period last year.
The U.S. has a longstanding tradition of providing safety to those fleeing persecution and violence and it must not abandon this strong humanitarian record now. Congress must step in to legislate a pathway to permanent status for those who will lose protections under this and prior TPS decisions.
ABOUT THE IRC
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities.