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Many end up in refugee camps in Kenya before they can seek asylum

Many families spent 15-20 years in the refugee camps before coming to the United States. While life in refugee camps brought some protection, life was still very difficult. Everyone lived in tents, food and water were rationed, and there was still abuse both physically and sexually. Food was given every 15 days but only a little bit of corn, oil, flour, rice, and beans which was barely enough to last for a few days let alone two weeks.

"In the refugee camp, though there were problems, it didn’t seem like a problem compared to what I saw in Somalia. I used to build with rocks and bricks and put cement down. And then I got the process to come to the United States. I still have one child in Somalia."

Hassan Malambo


A lot of people who ran there because we thought it was safe

“We made it in Somalia to an area called Kismaayo. The United Nations used to bring food to Kismaayo because there were a lot of people who ran there because we thought it was safe, though it wasn’t completely safe, but we just went there. And then we heard about the country called Kenya, so we started walking day and night to the country called Kenya. When we arrived in Kenya, despite all the things that we have survived, the same people who abused us, our families, our mothers, they were the boss, the supervisors who welcomed us at the camp. Then we got started on the process of going to the United States. Some of our people stayed in Somalia, some in Kenya, some we lost along the way in Somalia, but us, we got the chance to come to the United States.”

Ula Muya

It was a 3 days walk from there with no water or food.

"My name is Hamadi Abdalla Mahitula and I spent about 15 years in the refugee camp. There were many camps in Kenya, but I spent the most time in the camp that was in Dadaab and I can talk about what problems and how much I struggled there. When I went to Kenya, I left my daughter and my mom. I went to Dadaab with my wife and son and we lived there for 3 years. One very early morning a man came to me and said that my mother and daughter were walking from Dhoobleey to Dadaab to join me. It was a 3 days walk from there with no water or food. I felt so much pain thinking about them suffering. I thought, if I don’t save them today, they might die. I gathered water in large fuel containers, cooked beans and corn to share, and packed everything in a cart. I walked for two days until I found my mother and daughter and young grandson. The boy was very dehydrated and we could only see the whites of his eyes. I thought he was dead. The women gave him urine to drink. Many of the other women were suffering so bad from dehydration that they had no urine left to give their children to drink. I passed out many cups of water to the young ones and the women. With help from other refugees and some young boys, I pushed the cart back with the women and young ones all the way to the Dadaab hospital. UNHCR gave us food and medication. Two years later, my mother died. I felt like the world came to an end, but my love for her continued.”

Hamadi Mahitula

How Do Somali Bantu Immigrate To Another Country?


Seeking Asylum

Somalia refugees seek asylum in Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Many of those seeking a new life end up in refugee camps, mostly in Kenya, before being able to acquire passage to a new country.

The process of immigrating to another country is grueling and tiresome and usually takes at least 5 years of being vetted and interviewed. For the Somali Bantu, they started looking for countries who would be willing to take them, being turned down by all the countries that would have been similar to their home of Somalia. Finally, the United States agreed to take them which began the process of families being vetted. First those who were selected to immigrate were transferred to another refugee camp 900 miles away in Kakuma, Kenya. If they passed the vetting process there, they were then transferred to Nairobi for final interviewing and preparing before leaving for the United States. 

Immigration Resouces
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