Refugees must be offered safety, not ban – Somali refugee to tell vigil at US consulate in Belfast

A refugee from Somalia, who has made his home in Northern Ireland, will tell a vigil at the United States Consulate in Belfast on Thursday evening that every human being has a right to sanctuary if they have to flee war or persecution in their homeland.

Suleiman Abdulahi fled Somalia when the civil war broke out over twenty years ago. He now works as a translator and has set up a charity to help people from Africa who have moved to Northern Ireland.

He is due to address a candlelight vigil outside the United States Consulate in Belfast in protest at the ban on nationals from seven countries, including Somalia, from entering the US, and the suspension of its refugee resettlement programme.

In advance of the vigil, Suleiman Abdulahi said:

“Refugees are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary, awful times. That’s what happened to me. When war or persecution happen, you need sanctuary and a chance to rebuild, not a blanket ban because of your nationality or religion. 

“This ban means that refugees – the very people who are fleeing violence – are being treated not as victims but as a threat. Sadly, it also fuels the demonisation of people of the Muslim faith in the United States and beyond.

“I am happy to join this vigil, with so many of my Northern Ireland neighbours and friends, to ask the US government to reconsider this inhumane policy.”

The demonstration has been organised by two American women living in Northern Ireland, Jennie Carlsten and Elizabeth Nelson, and is supported by Amnesty International. The vigil will take place outside the US consulate general in south Belfast at 6pm on Thursday. It is one of many demonstrations in towns and cities being held across the UK, the USA and elsewhere.

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