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Dadaab Refugee Camp

I just finished reading City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence.

It is a really sad, vivid, frustrating book. Frustrating not because the book is badly written but because you finish reading it and feel helpless and angry and overwhelmed by all the injustice in the world.

dadaab refugee camp

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately and this post certainly doesn’t do much to fill that hole. I just wanted to take my small corner of the internet to recommend City of Thorns. In my nit-picky way, I was bothered by what came to feel like the author’s rather annoying style of writing. Many sentences could have been clearer and he should have used much more active tense. I got weary of gerunds and commas. His Somali words needed someone else to help with spelling and I remain endlessly curious (even after perusing in detail the end notes and looking some of them up) about where he got some of this information. But – don’t let that all turn you away, most people won’t even notice these things.

If you want to understand even a teensy bit of what refugees go through in today’s world, read this book. Somali, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Syrian, Yemeni, it doesn’t matter. The specifics of course will differ for each individual story and region, but broad issues are the same the world over. If you’re curious about the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya, if you don’t understand why Somalis and Kenyans have such deep hatred for each other, read this book.

I know others are reviewing the book and will give much more thoughtful responses. All I can do is suggest that you read it.

City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp.

Losing Home and American Immigrants

Quick link: You Can’t Go Home Again

you can't go home again

A family in transit through Djibouti opened up their experiences to me and EthnoTraveler published this story, recounting their perilous journey through bullets and oceans to find a place they could call ‘home.’ This is the story of an American man trying to get his family to safety, but also to a future: work, school, stability.

In March of 2015, Ibrahim crammed his wife and nine kids, along with a few belongings, into a car and raced out of the Yemeni city of al-Dhale as it crumbled around them. Fighting in the region between forces loyal to the former president (Ali Abdullah Saleh) and those loyal to the sitting president (Abed Rabbuh Mansur Hadi) had spilled into the city streets. At one point, Ibrahim was forced to drive through the center of a gun battle. Bullets zipped around the car as his wife and children huddled as low as possible.

They hoped to find a way out of Yemen at the port city of Aden. But first they had to pass through a checkpoint. Houthi soldiers, fighting for Saleh, manned the blockades and demanded to see paperwork, reports, anything that could prove Ibrahim and his family were simply civilians fleeing for their safety.

Ibrahim, a Yemen-born American citizen who had moved back to Yemen a few years earlier to help take care of his extended family, handed a soldier his navy blue American passport and the Houthi man immediately became suspicious.

Click here to read the rest of You Can’t Go Home Again

Overall, the family was happy with the help they received from Djibouti and from the United States as they made their journey. It took a long time and wasn’t easy, but they are ready to invest in their next location and I wish them all the best. I hope their new neighbors will welcome them well. I hope they will try to imagine what life has been like for this family and what their hopes and dreams might be for the future in the US.

*BONUS right now through February 15 you can subscribe to EthnoTraveler magazine and will be entered into a contest to win a Kindle Fire!

Engraved, SheLoves

Writing at SheLoves, about reclamation, engraving, and citizenship: Engraved


According to USAID, in 2011, Ali Addeh refugee camp in Djibouti supported approximately 17,000 refugees, most of them Somalis and most of them women and children. Traditionally, refugees born in Djibouti have not received identity cards. This means they are not Somali or Djiboutian. They are people without a nation, infants with no homeland.

No official birth certificate, no papers, means children can’t go further than the fifth year in school. They don’t have access to national health care. They are limited in their ability to defend their basic human rights, and struggle to participate in the cultural and social life of Djibouti, says an article in The Djibouti Post, Djibouti’s English newspaper.

April 2013 changed the future for more than one hundred of these children and launched an era of hope for other, unborn, second-generation refugees. With celebration and fanfare, and in partnership with the UNHCR, Djibouti has started to give these children, born between countries, Djiboutian birth certificates.

I picture the names of the kids: Aisha, Ahmed, Muna, Muhammed, now stamped on a piece of paper. I imagine their parents’ grief at the realization that in order to obtain this paper, they had to abandon their beloved Somalia. I imagine those same parents’ joy that now their child belongs someplace.

This name, on this paper, earns a child the right to immunizations, education, and a record of birth and eventual death. It earns them the increased chance to avoid child marriage, human trafficking, child labor, injustice in the court system, unwilling conscription into the military.

This is the reclaiming of identity, of nationality. This is the name of an infant on a piece of paper in a miniature nation in the Horn of Africa.

Do you know where my name is? Read the rest here, Engraved.

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