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‘A lot of pain’: Somalis allege abuse by immigration detention guards

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Immigration lawyers have filed a complaint against a Florida detention center, alleging guards pepper-sprayed, shackled and used excessive force on Somali detainees and called them racial slurs, including the N-word.

In the early morning of Dec. 9, immigration enforcement agents transported 92 Somalis — including some Minnesota residents — to two centers in Florida. At least 42 of them were taken to Glades Detention Center in south-central Florida.

The detainees were sent out of the country on Dec. 7, bound for their native Somalia but never made it. Logistical problems forced the flight to return to the United States after a brief stop in the West African country of Senegal, according to immigration law enforcement agents.

Lawyers, who filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the Somali detainees, allege that federal immigration agents physically and verbally abused detainees during that time.

On Monday, a federal judge in Miami extended a temporary hold on the deportation of these 92 men and women who were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents across the country in recent months.

Lawyers from the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law and Americans for Immigrant Justice Monday evening filed a complaint against Glades to the federal Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general saying facility staff have “failed to treat our clients with humanity and even the most basic respect for the dignity of another human being.”

• Dec. 13: For Minnesota Somalis, a raw, rising fear of deportation
Workers at Glades, which has a contract with the federal immigration agency, “have subjected our clients to abuse, both verbal and physical, have denied them medical and mental health care, and have employed harsh and punitive measures inappropriate to civil detention, disproportionate to any alleged offense, and in retaliation for complaints,” the lawyers said in the complaint as they pressed for an investigation.

“ICE is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Nestor Yglesias said in a statement to MPR News. “ICE has a strict zero-tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior in its facilities and takes any allegation seriously. ICE ensures facilities operate in compliance with its rigorous national detention standards through an aggressive inspection program.”

John Bruning, an attorney with the Kim Hunter Law firm in St. Paul that has two clients on the returned flight, traveled to Miami last week to help with the ongoing litigation since his firm has experience with Somali immigration cases. He interviewed eight Somali detainees at Glades.

On Jan. 2, Bruning spoke with 32-year-old Mohamud Hassan from Minnesota. When guards brought him in the interviewing room, Hassan was in a five-point restraint. His handcuffs were attached to a waist chain and his feet were chained.

In a sworn statement included in the complaint, Hassan said he had failed back surgery in the summer and still has a wound from the surgery. During the botched Dec. 7 flight, Hassan said he explained to a guard that he stood up because his back hurt. “The guard body-slammed me and put his knee in my back right where my surgery wound is,” he wrote in the affidavit. “He did it on purpose, after I told him about my back.”

At Glades, Hassan said he was given a pain medicine and muscle relaxer but later got into an argument with an officer about his pain treatment.

“The officer wouldn’t listen and made moves to body-slam and tackle me to the ground,” Hassan wrote. “I tried to warn the officers about my back and went down on the ground voluntarily, but then the officer stomped on my back, right on my surgery wound.”

“He also punched me in the face and beat me while other officers and a Lieutenant watched,” added Hassan, who was later placed in a segregated unit for 30 days. He added, “I am in a lot of pain.”

Diaspora

Somali teenager sets her hopes high for the future

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – War shattered 14-year-old Manaal’s dreams for the future. Now safe in the Netherlands, with new friends, her spirits are soaring once more.

“I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia,” says Manaal, who fled the country with her family. “In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach the whole time. I saw a movie about a stewardess and she looked so pretty and smart that I decided I want to become a stewardess as well.”

Twenty-eight long years of conflict have left Somalia reeling. The peaceful canals and cafes of Amsterdam, where Manaal found safety in 2014 , have offered the youngster a refuge she could barely have imagined.

Manaal is one of 12 refugee and asylum-seeking children living in Europe who star in a new project that lets their imagination run free.

Titled The Dream Diaries, the project sees the young refugees and asylum-seekers reveal their hopes and dreams from the safety of their new homes in Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
“In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach
the whole time.”

The series was produced by Humans of Amsterdam photographer Debra Barraud, her colleague Benjamin Heertje, Dutch graphic designer Annegien Schilling, filmmaker Kris Pouw and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

In it, Manaal dreams of becoming an air stewardess. A portrait shows her sitting on the wing of an airplane, soaring through a picturesque evening sky.

After 5 long years of separation from her father, who was the first to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to find a better life for his family, air travel means more to Manaal than most.

“When we arrived at the airport, I finally saw my dad again,” she tells The Dream Diaries team. “So I ran up to him and hugged him really tight.”
“When children flee their home countries, they leave everything behind, except their hopes and dreams,” says co-creator Debra Barraud, whose Humans of Amsterdam photography project has over 400,000 Facebook followers. “Through the project we saw the strength of these children and how with the right support they can achieve anything.”

Audiences are being encouraged to stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s global petition, which asks decision makers to grant refugees safety, education and opportunities – turning their dreams into reality. You can follow The Dream Diaries series via Humans of Amsterdam, Fetching Tigerss and UNHCR’s social accounts.

“My dream is to be a flight attendant,” says Manaal, who will never forget the elation of her first flight – to safety. “I want to be able to travel, see Paris and have butterflies in my stomach. I want to see the entire world.”

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Maine’s 1st Somali police officer busted at Mass. concert

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LA TIMES — Maine’s first Somali police officer is on paid leave during an investigation after her arrest over the weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester police charged Zahra Munye Abu, of Portland, with several misdemeanors including assault and battery, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Police say the 26-year-old caused a disturbance at a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert at the Palladium Nightclub. She was arrested Saturday night, and posted bail early Sunday.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck confirmed Abu’s arrest, but declined further comment.

Abu was born in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to Maine. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine and became a police officer in 2016. The Associated Press could not locate a phone number for her, and it’s unclear if she has a lawyer.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Portland police officer whose hiring made history is put on leave after arrest in Massachusetts

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PRESS HERALD — Zahra Munye Abu, the first Somali immigrant to serve on the city’s force, is charged in Worcester with five misdemeanors, including assault.

A 24-year-old Portland police officer has been charged with five misdemeanors, including assault and battery, after being arrested Saturday night at a concert venue in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester police said Zahra Munye Abu, of Portland, is also facing charges of trespassing, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Abu caused a disturbance while attending a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert at the Palladium Nightclub on Main Street, said Worcester police Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst.

“The nightclub was hosting several live musical acts,” Hazelhurst said in an email. “She was (given) several opportunities to leave and refused. Eventually she was placed under arrest.”

Worcester police would not provide more details about the incident, and members of Abu’s family declined to comment when contacted by phone at their home.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Abu has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a review of the matter.

“The Portland Police Department was notified late Saturday night of the arrest of Police Officer Zahra Abu in Worcester, Massachusetts,” Sauschuck said in an email. “This issue will be dealt with as a personnel matter from this point forward, so I will have no further comment.”

Chris Besaw, the Palladium general manager, declined to comment about the arrest or what occurred before local police became involved.

Abu was bailed out of jail at 1 a.m. Sunday, Hazelhurst said. He did not know the bail amount. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Worcester District Court.

Abu is a high-profile member of the Portland police force because she is the first member of Maine’s Somali immigrant community to become a police officer in Maine.

She was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp and has lived in Portland since she was 2 years old. She graduated from Deering High School in Portland and studied criminal justice and women-and-gender issues at the University of Southern Maine.

If convicted, Abu faces a maximum penalty of up to 2½ years in a county jail on the assault and battery and the resisting arrest charges. Each of the other charges include less severe maximum penalties.

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