New York, NY, January 17, 2020 — The U.S. Administration announced today it will extend but not redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Somalia. While this decision protects 500 TPS holders that arrived before 2012 when Somalia was last redesignated, it fails to protect Somalis who arrived in the U.S. in the past seven years. Since the collapse of the Somalian government at the outbreak of war, 4.2 million people – one third of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance and 2.6 million people internally displaced by armed conflict, insecurity, and natural disasters.
“For every step forward to recovery, Somalia is hit with a different disaster,” said Richard Crothers, Somalia Country Director at the International Rescue Committee. “The international community must support the country as it tries to rebuild from decades of violence and insecurity, as well as recurring drought conditions year after year. There just hasn’t been enough time for people to recover from a major loss in their livelihoods and livestock. The U.S. must extend and redesignate TPS for Somalia until the country is safe and has recovered from disaster and violence.”
The IRC has been on the ground in Somalia since 1981 and currently provides humanitarian aid to more than 280,000 people per year. Since 2017, the IRC has been scaling up its emergency response measures across northern and central Somalia, responding to the current drought supporting families with healthcare for malnourished children, unconditional cash transfers to help people quickly get the support they need, rehabilitation of boreholes and water sources as well as mobile health services to reach deeper into hard hit areas.
A combination of factors makes Somalia one of the world’s chronic humanitarian crises: The lack of a fully-functional government since 1991, climate change, continuing tensions between warring sides, and difficulty accessing basic health services. Persistent drought, conflict and insecurity continue to affect vulnerable pastoral and agro-pastoral populations and reduce humanitarian access, resulting in high levels of displacement that continues to rise. Drought conditions in early 2019 have led to an increase in Somalis facing food insecurity.
The Trump Administration clearly recognizes that Somalia is unsafe for returns by extending TPS, but arbitrarily leaves some Somalis at risk by not re-designating the status. To add insult to injury, just 231 Somali refugees were resettled in FY19 , a stark 96% drop compared to FY16 when more than 6,000 Somali refugees were resettled. This decision comes in the wake of the decision to also extend but not re-designate TPS for Yemen, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.
The U.S. must uphold its tradition of leadership in protecting those fleeing persecution and violence, and Congress must step in to legislate a pathway to permanent status for those who continue to live in limbo as a result of this and prior TPS decisions.