Corrupt UN officials helped fake refugees from Kenya resettle in America

CNN has a pretty remarkable story up today that reveals something everyone involved would rather remain a secret. For decades, people from Kenya have posed as Somalian refugees to take advantage of resettlement opportunities in the US and elsewhere. And CNN reports that middlemen collect large sums of money in order to bribe UN officials to make sure their clients have the best chance of being relocated.

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, to hundreds of thousands — there were many who registered as refugees who didn’t qualify…

All told, there are at least 40,000 Kenyans registered as refugees in the Dadaab camps alone, according to both UNHCR and government numbers, in what officials euphemistically term “double registration.”…

A UN spokesman told CNN, “I am not aware of any Kenyans being resettled as refugees.” Similarly, a spokesman for the US State Department says it has a “zero tolerance” policy for such fraud. However, CNN identified several “Somali” refugees who are actually Kenyan and even quotes one anonymous individual who admits his father faked their identities in the 1990s to gain resettlement in the United States.

A “facilitator” who gets paid between $10,000 and $20,000 for every client he can help get resettled abroad, claims he has bribed corrupt UN officials for years to make sure his clients get approved.

“It is at the very beginning of the process — before the applicant even gets to the US embassy vetting, the selection has been done at the UN level,” said one facilitator who said he has been exploiting corruption within the UN to game the resettlement system for years…

“The UN will know the criteria and make sure the paying clients match all the requirements. So, it can be cooked at the UN level,” he said…

“Before the Trump ban it was a booming business,” he said. His business is now focused on other countries, where refugee resettlement quotas are higher. He said his last case was just a few months ago.

The story quotes a UN official who compares resettlement to “winning the lottery.” That seems like an apt comparison, not just in Kenya but in Central America where we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people make a long journey to the US border, often with children, for a chance to claim asylum. Most of those people are coming for the same reason as the Kenyans pretending to be Somalian, i.e. they want a better life. And if all they have to do to get it is lie a bit about their circumstances, they’ll do that. Our immigration system needs to account for the fact that, for a lot of people around the world, illegal immigration is playing the lottery.