The sun was burning brightly when Ahmed arrived in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on a deportation flight from the US earlier this year. The tropical trees swayed slowly in the warm wind, oblivious to his anxiety and the torturous months that led to this moment.
It was a city this 32-year-old man had last seen as a 10-year-old boy.
“It was surreal. On the one hand: ‘I am free’. But on the other: ‘I am here,'” he says.
Liberated in March from immigration detention, where disease and threats were allegedly rife, he had been sent to a city ravaged by decades of civil war and terror.
He told me his story but asked for his real name to be withheld as he feared being targeted by the Islamist al-Shabab group because of his work warning young people in the US about the dangers of recruitment by Somali militants.
‘TB contracted in detention’
Six months earlier, in a small town in Minnesota – which is home to the largest population of Somalis living in the US – it was dawn when Ahmed was driving his daughter to nursery.
He noticed a large vehicle with tinted windows beginning to follow him.
It seems officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) had been watching him closely and, after getting him to pull…