Somali refugees find new homes in Cheyenne

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - While Wyoming might be the only state in the country without an official refugee resettlement program, that doesn’t mean there aren’t former refugees living in the Cowboy State.

There are dozens, perhaps even several hundred, former refugees living in Cheyenne alone.

Many of these people, like Abdirashid Noor, are from the war-torn east African nation of Somalia.

Noor, 32, and many others immigrated to the United States by way of refugee camps in countries that border Somalia, such as Kenya, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported Sunday.

The country had been unified from European colonies and achieved independence in 1960, but unity was short lived.

“There are no Somali families that have come to the United States who have not lost family members in the civil war,” Noor said.

“Two of my uncles were killed in front of my mother. She was helpless. She was standing in front of them watching, and she couldn’t help,” Noor said. “That is the worst thing.”

The war has raged since the central government was overthrown in 1991 by a coalition of clan-based rebel groups, according to information from the United Nations Operation in Somalia.

More than 500,000 people are estimated to have been killed and millions more have been displaced, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program.

Many who escaped, including Noor, found themselves in refugee camps in Kenya.

“The soldiers were trying to kill everyone. They were aiming for men, but if they didn’t find men, they would kill children and the ladies, rape them, torture them to get the information on where the men are,” Noor said.

“Luckily, my dad and my uncle left (the country) two days before the soldiers came to our house. They heard some rumors that people were coming and killing,” he said.

Noor, who was a child when the civil war broke out, soon followed suit and left Somalia along with his mother, siblings and several uncles.

“There were no vehicles, so we had to walk all the way from Somalia to Kenya,” Noor said. “Some people died on the way because there wasn’t enough water. They couldn’t get food. Some of them were eaten by animals. It was a horrible experience.

“Once we got to the border, the men that were guarding it wouldn’t let many people in unless you had money to bribe the guards. We had to stay at the border for like a month. We were just sleeping outside.”

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