A British man who was born in London but spent time in Somalia as a child has been refused a visa to travel to the United States.
Abdiwali Duale told BuzzFeed News that he fears that US President Donald Trump’s so-called “travel ban,” which restricts citizens from certain Muslim-majority countries from visiting the States, is being applied to UK citizens.
A spokesperson for the US embassy in London told BuzzFeed News that they could not comment on individual cases, but said that UK citizens are not affected by the travel ban.
“The only possible thing I can think of is when I was younger, at the age of ten, my parents went to Somalia,” Duale, who has been left hundreds of pounds out of pocket as a result of the situation, told BuzzFeed News. “They went to Somaliland, the north part of Somalia, which has been independent from the rest of the for the last 30 odd years, a stable state.
“My parents went back there, we were the youngest and went with them, we stayed there for a few years. This is the only think I can think of that has caused me to end up in this situation.”
This is not the first case of an individual of Somali origin being refused entry to the US. In 2017 the prominent FGM campaigner Nimco Ali, who arrived in Britain as a child refugee, was refused a visa despite letters of support from Bill and Melinda Gates and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales among others. That year the London-based musician Aar Maanta, the only Somali in his band, was also denied a visa – though he was allowed in the next year.
There have also been a number of reports on social media of British Somalis being denied visas to either visit or work in the US.
Duale, who is 22-years-old, was born and raised in Ealing, West London to Somali refugee parents who had settled in Britain in the 1990s. He left the UK at the age of 10 when his parents decided to move back to Somalia – to the northern region which is also known as Somaliland.
They then moved back to the UK in 2014 when Duale was 18, and he took up a place at university. He now lives in London and works as a lobbyist in the housing sector.
Duale had planned to fly to New York City with a group of friends, to surprise another friend who was studying there. They had planned to visit the Empire State Building, and take in some museums – “lots of really touristy things,” Duale told BuzzFeed News.
He had no reason to believe he would be refused a visa, and spent £300 on a plane ticket and £250 on a hotel before filling in the ESTA, stating where he intended to stay. After this was refused he spent an additional £135 on the visa application, leaving him almost £700 out of pocket in total.
After visiting the US embassy in London for his interview, Duale received a letter, seen by BuzzFeed News and dated January 29, which said that the visa had been declined and that he should wait for an email requesting the information or documentation required to proceed with his application. At time of publication, Duale had received no such email, and his friends have flown to the States without him.
Duale told BuzzFeed News that this is the first time that he feels his heritage his disadvantaged him, and to see his friends enjoying themselves in New York while he is still at home has been hard to deal with.
He said: “I’ve never ever faced any form of barrier, anything that segregates me from mainstream society probably ever – it’s the first ever time and it’s very hard to accept the fact that my friends are in New York right now and they’re there simply because of where they’re from, which families they were born into, and I’m not because of my circumstances and my family.
“I think it’s clear that it’s outright bigotry and discriminatory and it’s appalling that’s happening in 2019.”
A Foreign Office (FCO) source said the department would make representations if there was “impact from the US immigration executive order on UK nationals.”
At the time that Trump’s Executive Order was introduced, the FCO said: “We have confirmed with the US government that British passport holders (regardless of country of birth or whether they hold another passport/nationality) aren’t affected by the Executive Order.” A US embassy spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that this was still the case.
“If you’re a UK national you’re not going to be denied a visa because you may have an association with one of the countries under what’s described as the travel ban” a spokesperson said, citing the relevant legislation – the first Executive Order 13769, subsequent Executive Order 13780, which superseded the original travel ban, and Presidential Proclamation 9645, which replaced the second.
The spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases, but said that being of Somali heritage was not something that would automatically prevent someone from getting a visa.
“Like anybody else you still have to prove that they qualify, are not an intending immigrant. They have to demonstrate that they are entitled to a visa for travel. The United States wants to encourage legitimate travel to the US whether it’s for business or tourism or study.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We are unable to offer consular support to British Nationals experiencing difficulties getting a visa to another country, as each country is responsible for its own immigration policy and procedures.’”