Ninety Somali immigrants who either ran afoul of U.S. law or had their asylum applications rejected have been deported to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, witnesses and officials said Wednesday.
Somalia's ambassador to the United States, Ahmed Isse Awad, told VOA Somali that these immigrants had sent letters to the Somali Embassy in Washington, requesting the deportation. All had been in detention centers or prisons.
"Most of them are people whose asylum cases [were] denied through [the] legal immigration process, and others broke the U.S. law and had received final orders for removal from courts in the United States," he said.
The flight carrying the 86 men and four women landed at Mogadishu's Aden Adde Airport after stopping in Nairobi to drop off two Kenyan deportees. It was not clear from where the flight originated or who had chartered the plane.
Mohamed Isma'il, a member of the staff at the airport, said a number of the deportees appeared gloomy and haggard.
"Some of them were happy and smiling, but most of them were very sad," he said. "A few of them had bags with their belongings."
Reports about Somalis being deported from the United States have emerged since Mogadishu reopened its embassy in the U.S. in November 2015 after a 25-year absence. Awad said the removal cases of these Somalis "have been dragging for the last three years. We were informed about their cases, and since the U.S. has its legal right to decide who is staying in its country and who is not, our role as the Somali Embassy was to know that they are willing to go back."
The returnees came back to one of the world's most dangerous countries. Somalia has lacked a strong central government for more than a quarter-century; many countries, including the United States, have refrained from sending Somali immigrants back to the East African nation because of safety concerns.
Four years ago, for the first time in more than two decades, the United States granted official recognition to the Somali government, which is fighting al-Shabab militants with the help of 20,000 African Union peacekeepers and a small number of U.S. trainers.
But al-Shabab still manages to attack. On Wednesday, fighters set off two car bombs outside a Mogadishu hotel and exchanged fire with security guards. The attack left at least 28 people dead, according to the head of ambulance services in the city. At least five attackers were reported to be among the dead.