#BringBackOurGirls. This slogan has been trending since April, when the Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school in Borno State, Nigeria. Countless celebrities around the world – including U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama – have lent their voices to the social media campaign. But three months later, “our girls” have not been brought back. Although reports say approximately 50 have managed to escape, 276 girls are still missing.
More than 90,000 unaccompanied children are expected to arrive at the U.S. border this year. More than 20,000 of them will be of Mexican origin, but because they are being summarily turned around at the border little is known about their decision to undertake the journey alone, or the circumstances under which they traveled.
When my colleague, Garrett Bradford, and I met Pablo and Ana in Mexico City they had been displaced from their home, lost their fifteen-year-old son and son-in-law to an ambush by organized crime, and were still searching for their seventeen-year-old son, Juan, who had been kidnapped two months before. They are two of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who have been displaced by organized crime and other armed actors in the last few years.
“There was war in my home. The Mai Mai came to our village and burned everything there. I came here with my wife and eight children two months ago with nothing but the clothes on our backs. I came to this village to try to get some food.” These are the words of Emmanuel, an internally displaced man in northern Katanga Province. “Look,” he said, pointing to a makeshift house of branches and leaves. “We have no shelter, and no food.”
In November 2012, the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was on high alert. The notorious M23 rebel group had just taken over, pushing out the Congolese armed forces and rolling past the bases of United Nations peacekeepers.
My colleague Garrett Bradford and I are currently in Mexico, where we are meeting with people displaced by organized crime, gangs, and other armed actors throughout the country, including in Tijuana, Mexico City, Veracruz, and Sinaloa. No one knows how many people have been forced to leave their homes in Mexico due to extortion, kidnapping, forced disappearances, or murders, but it is widely reported to be more than 100,000 people.
Little Mogadishu has been under siege for more than four weeks. Half of the Somali population here is either in Kasarani camp (a makeshift camp set-up at a football stadium 10 kilometers outside of Eastleigh), has been deported back to Mogadishu, or sent to the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps. The remaining half, including my brother and I, are forced to stay indoors for our own safety. We can’t go out for food, water, and medicine.
My colleague Michael Boyce and I are currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we will be traveling to both North Kivu Province in the northeast and Katanga Province in the southeast. With more than 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs), DRC has one of the largest displaced populations in the world.
In a recent meeting with a group of people displaced by the conflict in Myanmar’s Kachin State, I was reminded of the lack of options with which many displaced people can be left. When I asked the group why they were unable to return to their home villages, they laughed and pointed behind my head. I turned around and saw a line of at least 50 military trucks on the road behind us. They told me that they had seen at least 200 military trucks pass by the camp that day.