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Most of the people deported or removed from the U.S. are from Mexico. There were nearly 129,000 deportations to Mexico in 2017, followed by Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti. But if you scroll down that list, Somalia is number 13. The number of Somali deportations pales in comparison to the top five countries, but some Somali natives are still fearful.

During fiscal year 2017, 521 Somalis were deported from the United States. That’s up from 198 the previous year.

“I think when they deciding to deport someone back home they will need to evaluate if this person is capable of going back to Somalia,” said Farhan Abdi. He’s a small business owner and the executive director of Somali Community of Louisville. Abdi (pictured above) said he knows of at least three Somalis deported in the past year. The increase in deportations stretches back to the Obama administration but Abdi believes the fear factor has gone up this year.

“They think that they’re a target at this time from this administration,” he said.

Last week, 92 Somalis were scheduled to be deported. The plane departed from Louisiana but after a stop in Dakar, Senegal, the plane was rerouted back to the United States. An ICE official said of the flight, “upon landing for a refueling and pilot exchange at Dakar, Senegal, ICE was notified that the relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar.” The detainees landed in Florida.

Salim Muya of Kentucky, 26, was aboard the flight. He said during the flight he was physically shoved, and remained in handcuffs for the duration. 

“I don’t know anyone in Somalia,” he said on a video conference call while detained in Glades County Detention Center. “If I go back, I’m going to get killed.”

In October, a truck explosion on a corner in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, killed more than 500 people. This month, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 police at a training center.   

Not only are deportations increasing among Somalis, the country is one of eight on President Trump’s travel ban. Immigration officials could not immediately provide the number of deportations of Somalis from Kentucky and Indiana. Since 1994, nearly 3,400 Somali refugees have been directly resettled in Kentucky.

Farhan Abdi was born the year of the collapse of Somalia’s government in 1991.  He said deportees are at risk of being in the center of chaos when they return, involving extremist group Al-Shabaab.

“What I describe right now is not safety at all,” he said. “We don’t have a capable or dependable government that can give you a safety life. It’s not safe at all.”

Abdi believes the deportation process should be re-evaluated — especially for a population that comes from a country tangled in decades-long instability.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.