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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Somali passports for sale
By Mohammed Adow
BBC, Nairobi

Forged Somali passports are as easy to buy as bread in the Garissa Lodge market in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Somali passport
There is no authority to issue Somali passports - except in the markets
Abdifatah Farah Yasin not only sells the passport but also "authenticates" it by putting a seal of the Somali ministry of foreign affairs and forging the signature of the last controller of passports before the break-up of the Somali state.

Somalia has had no central government since 1991 and has been wracked by fighting between opposing warlords.

"We are doing nothing wrong, we are just playing the role of a Somali government now that there isn't one in our country. Obviously there should be someone offering this service to Somalis," he said.

He even offered to sell me a Somali diplomatic passport, for just $100.

He said he would indicate in the passport that I was the Somali Ambassador to China or any other country of my choice.

He said they are printed in Malaysia and then smuggled into Kenya, where they are sold to Somalis desperate to travel abroad.

Free-for-all

The ready availability of Somali passports has led to nationals of other countries opting to use it too.

The Somali passport has been an attraction to ethnic Somali Kenyans, who can find it difficult to obtain a Kenyan passport.

Gunman walks past ruined building
Much of Somalia is in ruins after years of fighting
Other nationals who are known to have used the Somali passport include Ethiopians and Eritreans, who resemble Somalis.

And this is why Kenya has announced that it will no longer respect Somali passports.

The country has twice been hit by terror attacks.

They fear that the easy availability of the Somali passport would make it possible for would-be attackers to operate freely within their country.

But the ban has badly affected Somali traders, who travel to Kenya to buy their merchandise, often from Garissa Lodge in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh.

At this market you can buy just about anything from modern electronic equipment to fake university degrees.

Many traders in this market used their Somali passports to travel to Far East countries such as China, Thailand and Taiwan for their supply of commodities.

Since the ban was announced, numbers at this previously busy market have sharply declined many stalls are now empty.

Medical treatment

Hussein Adan Arab, one of the traders at the market, said that they had not got any supplies from anywhere for the past two weeks following their immobility caused by the passport ban.

"We have been forced to raise the prices of goods so as to stay in business longer," he said.

Haji Hassan Gulleid, chairman of the Eastleigh business community, says that Kenya has lost out because of the drop in trade. "Our brothers in Somalia were entirely dependent on us and now after this step by our government cannot get in or out of our country," says Haji Gulleid, himself a Kenyan national.

He called the ban "ill-advised and inhumane", saying that many Somali nationals also went to Kenya to get services that they cannot get in their country including medication and access to international flights abroad.


SEE ALSO:
UAE 'bans visas for Somalis'
10 May 04 |  Africa
Puntland 'to expel Kenyans'
26 Apr 04 |  Africa
Life amid Mogadishu's ruins
16 Apr 04 |  Africa
Somalia deal 'must be enforced'
04 Feb 04 |  Africa
Q&A: Somali peace deal
29 Jan 04 |  Africa


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