Accepted Paper:

Migrants and refugees of the Somali 'Bantu' community in diaspora between Africa and America  
Francesca Declich (Università di Urbino Carlo Bo)

Paper short abstract:

More than 10,000 Somali Bantu were recently resettled from Kenyan refugee camps to the USA and 2,000 are being granted citizenship in Tanzania. Their initiatives, resources and aspirations in receiving countries were expressed in different ways in Tanzania and in the US on the basis of various factors.

Paper long abstract:

At the end of 2004 more than 10,000 Somali "Bantu" were resettled from Kenyan refugee camps to the USA. Reasons behind the acceptance of this resettlement were that the families of the Somalis designated as "Bantu" would not have a safe place back in their country, the southern part of Somalia.

This paper is based on fieldwork carried out since 1993 in different locations of the countries where the "Bantu" Somali have been received earlier (before the war of 1990) as migrants and later as refugees: Kenya, Tanzania and, finally, the US. Several research tools have been used including life histories. Different options are available to these refugees in the different social contexts. In Tanzania people have been offered citizenship and land on which to farm. The Somali Bantus who moved as migrants from southern Somalia to Tanzania or as forced migrants due to the civil war of 1990 arrived in such country with a set of aspirations and expectations for their future. Their resources and initiatives in terms of integration in the receiving country were partly determined by their cultural background. Matriliny and matrilineal ties were elements used to relate with the people living in receiving countries. Communities of earlier migrants in Tanzania provided a concrete basis and social network for them in the town of Dar es Salaam. A decade of permanence in refugee camps and settlement, however, - where I have followed-up Somali Bantus refugees during the last ten years of their diasporas, - had an impact on the views of their future. Concrete situations in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the imagined prospect to travel towards the "America" have contributed to changing their aspirations.

The group of people who reached the United States have different chances, more than anything else a much higher possibility to pursue a good education. No earlier Bantu Somali migrants are available as social network in the US, only Somali ethnic people. Integration in the US is quite a challenge as conditions are very different from the agricultural setting where the Somali Bantu come from in Somalia. In this perspective, different characteristics of the states (within the US) where the people have been resettled might foster a smoother adaptation (state with hotter climates, high number of migrants, etc. ) but a less prompt integration. Factors of this kind options and results from choices may be analyzed based on a recent survey carried out in two states and the interviews carried out.

Panel IW04
Diaspora and migration