Removals to Somalia in Light of the Convention against Torture: Recent Evidence from Somali Bantu Deportees

Published: 1/Jan/2019
Source: Georgetown Immigration Law Journal

Daniel J. Van Lehman and Estelle M. McKee


Somali Bantu refugees deported against their will from the United States are shackled in chains during their removal to Somalia. Ancestors of the Somali Bantu deportees were similarly chained on their journey to Somalia as victims of the Sultan of Zanzibar’s East African slave trade nearly 200 years ago.

In 2003, the first of 12,000 minority Somali Bantu refugees who were long-resident in Kenyan refugee camps were legally resettled in the United States under its Refugee Admissions Program Process Priority 2 as a group of “special humanitarian concern.” Since 2016, dozens of Somali Bantu men have been removed from the United States to Somalia, where they rarely have relatives outside of regions controlled by the U.S. Department of State-designated terrorist group Al Shabaab. Of those deportees interviewed, most were either born in Kenya or arrived there as infants so Somalia’s dominant culture and language are foreign to them. The U.S. Department of State’s 2017 country report describes Somalia’s minorities as, “…disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, [and] kidnapping for ransom” carried out “with impunity by faction militias and Majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities.” Survey results from the Somali Bantu deportees reveal that most were kidnapped and tortured for ransom by uniformed Somali police or armed groups that the Somali Government was unwilling or unable to control. Some were kidnapped and tortured for ransom upon arrival at the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) by Somali government security personnel while others were taken within weeks of arriving in Somalia. American government analysis and survey results from Somali Bantu deportees provides evidence that permitting their removal to Somalia violates Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.


Themes: Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, Statelessness
Regions: Somalia
Year: 2019