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The other side of Trump’s travel ban

By Oxfam
At the Huth camp for Yemenis forced to flee their homes, an Oxfam water tank, standing in the distance, provides more than 220 households with clean drinking water. Photo: Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi/Oxfam

Here’s why people are fleeing the “banned” countries, and how the Executive Order has affected their lives. 

Last month, President Trump issued an Executive Order that bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, imposes bans on refugees on the basis of their religion, and blocks citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Although the Executive Order was temporarily suspended by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, it is not permanently abolished, and the administration plans to release yet another equally restrictive Executive Order.  In the midst of these ongoing legal battles, many refugees who have already gone through the lengthy security vetting process and been approved for resettlement in the US are now living in limbo.

Oxfam staff work alongside women, men, and children from conflict zones, including five of the countries listed in the executive order, which are facing some of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. The travel ban is already having an impact on the lives of those fleeing violence. Families have been separated, people have been left stranded, and their lives have been put in danger.

So why are people fleeing these countries in the first place and what has it been like to be “banned” from entering the US? Here are some of the latest reported stories from real people, and how the ban has impacted their lives.

Somalia

Somalia is struggling with one of the world’s largest displacement crises. It has faced two decades of conflict, made worse by drought, which has brought untold challenges for the country’s most vulnerable people, including 363,000 children under 5 who are acutely malnourished. The maternal mortality rate in Somalia is among the highest in the world: 732 maternal death per 100,000 live births, more than 26 times higher than the US rate.

Oxfam has been working to help people thrive and survive in the midst of crisis by creating wider access to sustainable ways of earning a living, improving basic service delivery, and granting access to humanitarian aid.

One million Somali refugees have fled to neighboring countries, and a million remain displaced within Somalia. The conflict in nearby Yemen has further complicated this crisis, resulting in thousands of people from Somalia and Yemen now fleeing into Somalia.

This is the story of Hashi, a 24-year-old Somali refugee who has not seen her husband since 2014, when they fled the war in Somalia to an Ethiopian refugee camp. After initially getting approved to come to the US, the travel ban has left their family in limbo. Travel ban prolongs Somali refugee family's separation > 

Yemen

At the Huth camp for Yemenis forced to flee their homes, an Oxfam water tank, standing in the distance, provides more than 220 households with clean drinking water. Photo: Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi/Oxfam

The crisis in Yemen has produced the greatest number of people needing emergency aid in any country in the world. More than 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the bombing and fighting.

Oxfam has been in Yemen for more than 30 years, working to improve the water and sanitation services, and livelihoods of thousands of people living in poverty. Our focus is on women's rights, health care, disaster preparedness, and helping people have a say in the decisions that affect them.

Ebrahim Almurisi was an oral surgeon in Yemen, but decided to get his family out of the country when the civil war there became too dangerous. When their plane landed in Washington, D.C., they were ordered to get back on a plane and out of the country. "I was begging them to leave us here because of the war in Yemen," he said. Yemeni doctor and family stranded by travel ban makes new home in El Sobrante > 

Sudan

At the Al Salaam camp for displaced people in Sudan's North Darfur State, family members make regular trips to tap stands like this to collect water for all their household needs—from cooking to washing and drinking. Access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education are all essential in preventing the spread of waterborne diseases in crowded camp conditions. Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam

The conflict in Sudan between the government and rebel groups has killed untold numbers of people and caused massive displacement.

Together with our partners in Sudan, Oxfam is addressing immediate public health needs, supporting women, installing wells and constructing latrines, providing cash grants, and distributing relief materials.

Kamal Fadlalla is a doctor in Brooklyn, and was visiting family in Sudan when the travel ban went into effect. He was left stranded, and said all he could think about was his patients left behind. Brooklyn doctor stranded in Sudan because of travel ban is now back home >

Iraq

When ISIS occupied their village back in 2014, many Iraqis fled to nearby Sharuja Polaq in the Kirkuk district of Iraq. The small community has welcomed 170 displaced families. Oxfam has been helping both the hosts and the newcomers with access to clean water. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

More than 3 million Iraqis have been displaced across the country since the start of 2014 and nearly 220,000 are refugees in other countries.

Oxfam is providing life-saving assistance to displaced people in Iraq through cash or vouchers to help them meet critical needs. We are also rehabilitating water infrastructure, providing sanitation facilities and supporting hygiene promotion activities, providing livelihood opportunities for displaced people and returnees, which helps them to access income while displaced or recently returned.

An Iraqi interpreter risked his life working for the U.S. Marines. Now, after eight years in the U.S., his Michigan export business is suffering because it’s too risky to leave the country. Ban puts Iraqi interpreter’s carefully built American dream at risk >

Syria

Hussein Okla, 20, fills a water tank with water supplied by Oxfam at an informal settlement for Syrian refugees near the town of Zahle in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Syria’s conflict has led to one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the century. Over half of the country’s population has fled: 5 million people have sought refuge in the region and beyond, and 6.3 million people are internally displaced, in most cases multiple times.

Oxfam reached 1.12 million Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon with clean drinking water or cash and relief supplies. We are also helping families get the information they need about their rights, connecting them to services such as legal aid, as well as working on sanitation.  

Feras Almouqdad, a Syrian lawyer, was supposed to travel to the US with his wife and three children. Now, he is stuck in Jordan, unsure of what his future holds. How a Syrian lawyer saw his American dream turned upside down >


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