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Somali Immigration… Why Columbus, Ohio, Minnesota, Seattle, and Virginia?
If you are a mental health professional recently moved to the Columbus, Ohio, Minnesota, Seattle, or Virginia areas the following history of the Somali immigration provides a brief over view.
This course contains tips, techniques, and tools to assist with cultural awareness and competency. As you will note, the case studies given are for an Asian, Hispanic, African American, American Indian, etc. cultures. So, keep your mind open for the core intervention that is presented.
Ask yourself what piece or part of this idea can be adapted to my situation? As you know, this skill of adapting is not only valuable with this course and the particular culture with which you may be providing service, but with any of the interventions you encounter whether in this course, other courses on this site, or other literature you read.
As you read or listen to a Section ask yourself how can I adapt a piece or a part of this to my situation?
Tracy Appleton, LCSW, MEd
Director, Continuing Education
The Somali Population in Columbus, Ohio
1. Columbus is the country’s second largest settlement of Somali refugees. Minnesota is first and Seattle is third.
2. According to the Somali Community Association of Ohio:
• 35,000+ Somali refugee/immigrants live in Columbus
• 7% of Somali persons speak English well enough to get a job
• 75% of Somalis are eligible for citizenship
• 15% have become citizens
• 99.9% of Somalis are Muslims
• 80% of Somalis live with their families
• A large amount of families are headed by women (33%+)
History of the Immigration Movement
• In 1991, the president of Somalia, Siad Barre was ousted from the position by a militant, Mohamed Farah Aideed.
• Aideed formed a pseudo-government with eight ministers who essentially became warlords of their areas and caused a civil war
• The UN came into Somalia in response, but their efforts were seen as damaging and Somalis became resistant
• Since 1991, 350,000-1 million Somalis have been killed
• Somalis have left their home country due to political and civil unrest in their country.
• There are 350,000 Somali refugees in the world
• Somali refugees are resettled in Kenya, Yemen, United Kingdom, United States, Ethiopia and other countries.
• In 2005, 30,000 Somali refugees came to the United States
Why Columbus, Ohio?
• When Somalis first began immigrating to the United States the main two states were Virginia and Minnesota.
• Somalis who were living in Virginia began to look for a new place to live because the cost of living was so high and there were few jobs.
• Several Somalis moved to Columbus because of the availability of warehouse and factory jobs. Also, rent prices were much cheaper.
• Word spread through families and friends and soon Columbus became one of the foremost destinations for Somali refugees.
Basic Social and Cultural Norm Information
1. A lot of the social and cultural norms of the Somali population comes from being Muslims which I will discuss later
2. Social and Cultural Norms
a. Opposite-sex contact
b. Emphasis on family unit, care for extended family
c. Hard work, sending money to family in Somalia
Current State of Affairs
Employment, Health, Education, & City Adaption
1. A major issue for Somali refugees is finding employment.
2. Many Somalis own their own businesses or work at warehouse jobs in Columbus
a. Global Mall on Morse Road
3. Some people in the community are concerned that the Somali population is taking all of the available jobs in Columbus
a. In 2006, Franklin County’s unemployment rate was 4.8% (at the time the state’s unemployment rate was 5.1%)
1. Many Somali refugees are unable to receive the medical attention that they need due to the high costs of health care and the lack of culturally competent services
2. Columbus’ Hospitals and Health Care facilities have begun to address the need for translation services
1. Columbus Public Schools have been overwhelmed by the increase in Somali students over the past several years
2. Nearly every school in Columbus has an ESL class that serves Somali students
a. According to Columbus Public School’s website 3% of student’s parents speak another language besides English (around 2000 students)
3. Many ESL teachers do not speak Somali and are forced to teach the students without any use of their primary language
1. Mayor Coleman has created the New American Initiative under the Community Relations Commission
a. According to its website the purpose of the initiative is to: "give all immigrant and refugees living in Columbus access to city services and programs to help improve their lives. This initiative gives equal opportunity to all refugees and immigrants and allows them to become responsible, productive residents of Columbus"
2. The commission is looking at problems with housing, language barriers, health care, education, and discrimination
3. This is the first city wide initiative to look at problems facing Somali refugees in Columbus
Events and attitudes that have shaped the current perception about the Somali population
How are Somalis seen in Columbus, Ohio?
1. Two Sides to the Issue
a. Most Columbus’ residents are welcoming and accepting of the Somali population.
b. However, there is a significant amount of the population who does not want the Somali population to live in Columbus.
c. This may stem from misconceptions about public assistance, job opportunities, and cultural and social norms.
A presentation by Students for Community Cultural Awareness