The extension on Temporary Protection status means the country is still classified as unsafe
Refugees from Somalia living in the United States will now enjoy an extended Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS, for refugees for 18 months from July 2018, following a decision The United States Department of Homeland Security.
With the program’s extension, those Somalis with special status can stay in the U.S. through March 2020. Should that now be extended, then TPS beneficiaries have to decide whether to leave the US or stay and face arrests and deportation
However the International Rescue Committee faulted the move, arguing that the 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.
For many Somalis the announcement made by the President Donald Trump administration was a relief. Those on TPS are granted special immigration status to stay in the U.S. from countries experiencing war, disease or a natural disaster. TPS protects those individuals from being detained and makes them eligible for employment in the US.
“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.”
“Somali refugees with TPS are now eligible to re-register for an extension of their status for 18 months, through March 17, 2020”
“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”, read the statement in part.
IRC says 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.
IRC argues that 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”, read the IRC statement seen by the Somalia Investor.
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.
TPS was first approved for Somalia back in 1991 because of the country’s brutal civil war. However, if protections end, those refugees would be forced to leave the country or face deportation. The move has however been received with mixed feelings.
“The decision to extend TPS for Somalia was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s designation is based,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen said in a statement. “Following careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the conditions supporting Somalia’s designation for TPS continue to exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be extended,”
Somali refugees with TPS are now eligible to re-register for an extension of their status for 18 months, through March 17, 2020. After that, DHS will review the conditions in Somalia to determine whether TPS should be extended again. Approximately 500 Somalis currently have TPS.