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How fake refugees from Kenya got settled in the US and Europe


“We took the opportunity that was in front of us and we didn’t take it for granted,” he says, speaking in a broad American accent. “We have followed the American dream, as they call it. We have all gone to school and we have all graduated.”

But his family members weren’t refugees, and they weren’t born in Somalia — they were born in Kenya, and he says his father faked their refugee status in the 1990s to get into the US.

“I feel bad for them [the real refugees], but at the same time it is all about first come, first served. I feel like if they had come before us, then we would have been the ones to stay and they would be the ones who would have gone,” he says.

He agreed to speak to CNN on the condition of anonymity, afraid of being found out.

Refugee status should be reserved for people fleeing across international boundaries from targeted persecution or war.

But in Kenya, home to one of the largest refugee populations on the planet, tens of thousands of registered refugees aren’t refugees at all.

A CNN investigation has determined that from the late 1990s through 2016 an untold number of these fake refugees were resettled in the US and elsewhere.

A sprawling haven

For decades, the chaos in Kenya’s troubled neighbor, Somalia, pushed wave after wave of refugees across the border. They came in buses, on donkeys, and sometimes by foot.

But as the number of people moving to what was once the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya swelled from thousands, to tens of thousands,…



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