Somali Refugees in Switzerland

Last September, my friend and I were flying from Dar es Salaam to Zurich on Swissair with a stopover in Nairobi. There were literally 15 people on the first leg from Dar to Nairobi and we were pretty psyched because we could stretch out and sleep in peace. We were hoping not too many people would join us in Nairobi. That didn’t happen.

When people started to board the plane in Nairobi there was something strange going on. Although we were in Africa, the people getting on the plane didn’t look like normal air travelers. Literally there were 150 Somali refugees boarding a Swissair plane bound for Zurich. That struck me as very odd so I asked the flight attendant what was going on. He informed us that it was part of a UN program to take innocent Somalis out of the impending warzone of Mogadishu, which is the capital of wartorn and disputed Somalia.

Somalia is a rogue country that hasn’t had a real government in place in decades. Famously, the US had a brief military involvement or some might say blunder, made famous in the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’. They have until last year had a relative cease fire but factions have risen up again and they are still fighting against each other for control of the country and against their neighbors to the west, Ethiopia. The US has quietly been involved in the training and development of the Ethiopian military.

That aside, these refugees as they had become, were being moved to Switzerland which seemed strange. I have been unable to find out where they were moved to in Switzerland. I have also been unable to find out what happens to the Somalis once they arrive in Switzerland. I am not sure what percentage are granted asylum and allowed to stay. I am not sure how they work and/or live. I believe they are covered for health insurance by either the Swiss government or by some UN program.

Refugees are a very difficult topic to address for Africa and the UN. I have seen refugee camps and they are not pretty. It is a horrible way to live and they are basically forgotten by their parent countries and have little hope of attaining a life. However, for some they are a blessing because they are given food and reasonable healthcare. It is also very difficult to keep track of them and I wonder to this day a year later what has happened to these refugees that I shared a plane ride with. They were all extremely nice and very well behaved. I have an extreme affinity for the African people, especially the ones who are unable to help themselves. I just hope they are being treated fairly and given a chance to make a life in Europe.

If anyone has any information on these Somalis or refugees in Switzerland in general, please comment or email it to me.

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  1. Strange they would flown to Switzerland

  2. That must’ve been a strange experience but cool at the same time. Very interesting article, I had no idea they did that kind of thing.

  3. Lee, you forgot to mention there was no inflight entertainment whatsoever which is very strange considering how nice of an airline SwissAir is. needless to say, the easy solution to that flight was a couple Tylenol PM and some red wine…

  4. The prospect of being back in civilization helped too

  5. Somali refugees are resettled yearly to the US and they most use Brussels airlines,BA and Swiss to move them from nairobi to europe from where they have connecting flights to the US.Maybe that was the case

  6. Sonia Caciorgna says

    I am looking for traces of a somali national call Abdullah Osman who is my uncle. My name is Sonia and I am the daughter of a somali air force capitain who lived in Civitavecchia (Italy)till 1973 and moved back to Somalia at the break of the war. His name was Hamed Mohammed Issa (Ilgir).
    Can anybody please give me information of any sort on the wherabouts of the two cousins or suggest who can help in this research. Thank You.

    • hii sonia am a somali . i have i have read your comment that your looking your comment that your looking for your father.
      i will advice you to contact to contact the somali airline office in mogadishu. i hope youcan trace your uncle from there .since there are few somali pilots then those working in somali airline would know him

  7. mohammed jamel says

    hi-mr Lee i read your story it\’s realy good..and i,m one of the somali refugees from nairobi-to Zurich-to U.S.A and i live in u s a know…but if i find that people i will let you know my freind\

  8. SONIA , I saw your dad\’s name in somali air force club and he called Ahmed not Hamed , I am sure you will easilly find your missing relatives, just visit that website.

    shout from central Somalia

  9. That could be very good for us unlikely this has never happen that the Swiss Government has taken Somali`s out of Diarry situation even those whom are leaving in Switzerland dont have Regular Permit even after 10 years.So it could be that either the US or Canada who was taking just Transit to switzerland.

  10. Switzerland has No Place for a lot of People especially Africans yet.

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