"Somalia" Training Materials for Asylum Officers

by David L. Cleveland


US-CIS, in response to a FOIA lawsuit by the Louise Trauma Center, released 43 pages of  training materials, dated Jamuary 2020, that it gave to its asylum officers. This article will quote some of the material. The pages are available on the “Asylum Officer Materials” page at www.louisetrauma.weebly.com, entitled “Somalia Jan 2020.”

Child soldiers: Al-Shabab is the “main perpetrator.” Page 2 of 43.

Laws “regarding adoptions are unclear.” Page 3.

The materials feature some nice maps.

The country is “mostly Sunni Muslim.” Page 8.

In 1969, Mohammad Siad Barre assumed power. His family is “Marehan-part of Darod clan family.” Page 13.  He was overthrown in 1991. Foreigners intervened. In 2017, Mohamed Adullahi Mohamed assumed power.

Al-Shabaab engages in child recruitment and forced marriage. Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2008. Page 23. In 2019, it killed the Mayor of Mogadishu; a truck bomb killed 80 people; in January 2020 one U.S. soldier was killed.

Areas of influence change over time. 2019: Al-Shabaab maintains control or influence in non-urban areas and over “supply routes.” Page 30. It operates a “shadow government” and collects “taxes.”

CLANS: a chart with several clans is at Page 34. There are several “nomadic” clans.

Naming conventions: three names: given name at birth, father’s first name, and grandfather’s name (father’s side). Page 37.

There are “minority groups” that lack support of the “majority (noble) clans.” Page 38. They suffer mistreatment. Christians suffer.

UK Home Office report of 2015: in northern Somalia, the dominant Isaaq and Darod clans determine the position of the minorities. Page 41.

Comments of the author

The Eighth Circuit denied all relief in Mohamed v. Garland, 44 F.4th 761, 768 (C.A.8, 2022). Mr. M arrived in the US in 1996 as a refugee. He then was in a music video with a partially-clad female. He claimed that Al-Shabaab threatened him. He argued that as a member of the Benadiri minority group, he will lack clan protection. IJ granted relief, but the BIA remanded. The IJ again granted relief, the BIA remanded again. A new IJ then denied all relief, finding that Mr. M could internally relocate to Mogadishu. Also, country conditions reports said  the vast majority of attacks are on military targets, government officials, security officers, and people associated with the government. BIA and Eighth Circuit affirmed.

Mr. Ali fared better in the First Circuit, which remanded: Ali v. Garland, 33 F.4th 47, 54 (C.A.1, 2022). Ali had been granted asylum in 2002. But, he committed some crimes, and found himself before an IJ. He argued he deserved protection under the CAT because he was a “westernized criminal deportee.” He presented evidence that a “former government minister” had stated that “'deportees with a criminal past''” are “'suspected by the Somali government of being law-breakers.'”

He also presented testimony from an expert, Mary Harper, who had experience reporting from Somalia and was the BBC News's “Somalia Analyst.” She testified that Ali faced harm from three groups: 1] the government of Somalia; 2] Al-Shabaab; and 3] members of private militias” and “individuals who are armed criminals.”

Harper said that government authorities in Somalia “have displayed hostility to the idea of people with a history of criminal convictions being deported to Somalia,” whom they view as “undesirables.”

Harper said that al-Shabaab targeted westernized criminal deportees for abuse because such deportees “personif[y] everything that” al-Shabaab “despise[s].”

She also said  “members of private militias” and “individuals who are armed criminals” would target Ali, “due to his appearance and other ‘characteristics’ that marked him as a westernized criminal deportee.

= = = = = = =

The Fourth Circuit denied relief to Mr. Ibarra, from El Salvador, who argued he would be tortured by the MS-13 gang, the police, or anti-gang vigilante groups if he is deported to El Salvador. Ibarra Chevez v. Garland, 31 F.4th 279, 283 (C.A.4, 2022)

Mr. Ibarra had non-gang tattoos, and committed crimes in the United States. He cooperated with the police in Virginia. He argued:

- the MS-13 gang would harm him because of his police cooperation;

- the El Salvador police and vigilante groups would harm him because they might mistakenly believe he is a member of a gang because he has tattoos and a criminal  history in the United States.

In support, Ibarra presented the testimony and declaration of Ellen Moodie, Ph. D.; a declaration of Tommie Sue Montgomery, Ph. D.; documentary evidence of country conditions; and a translation of Salvadoran Decree 717, which was passed by the government in 2017 as a means of identifying, tracking, and, in some cases, detaining deportees with suspected gang ties.

Although recognizing the country-conditions evidence that “gang members and suspected gang members are at an increased risk of torture by police and [vigilante groups] than the general public in El Salvador,” the IJ found that Ibarra had failed to demonstrate that he faced a particularized risk of significant torture. 31 F. 4th at 287.

Having considered the potential threat to Ibarra from gangs, the police, and vigilante squads, the IJ found “the threat to [Ibarra] from these sources is less than a fifty percent chance of torture both separately and in the aggregate.” 31 F. 4th at 288.[emphasis in original]

Rather, “the question is whether the cumulative probability of torture by all the entities, or for all reasons, exceeds 50%. …CAT claims must be considered in terms of the aggregate risk of torture from all sources, and not as separate, divisible CAT claims.”

The IJ and the BIA correctly applied these standards. Affirmed.


About The Author


David L. Cleveland was the Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee [2004-05] and has secured asylum or withholding for persons from 48 countries. Based in Washington DC, he is available at <louise.trauma.ltc@gmail.com>


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.