23 June, 2014

Tell a different story: when the goverment can’t fill the gaps of the system, they are those willing to

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Category: European Action Day, Refugees' stories
Ruxandra Pandea
7 am

When the government can’t fill the gaps of the system, there are those willing to.

by Ayaan Mahdi


For over 22 years, the Somali people have been living without a functioning state, they’ve been displaced all over the world; they’ve fled poverty, hunger, war and the list goes on. What is a culture and norm for them is indeed a great contribution to their current societies.


Because there was no functioning government for over two decades, many of the young Somalis are missing the sense of citizenship. But what they don’t lack is identity; no matter where you go in the world you will see a sense of strong identity.

In some places in the world there are already two generations born and raised in outside their home country: you can still see young people speaking fluently in their mother tongue, they know their history and are often proudly showing their culture in terms of cuisine and clothing. The little the Somalis had left after the war was their identity and culture and that they have managed to pass along through the ages.

However, there is a cultural clash. Because they hold on so hard on their culture and identity, there is a division between the older and younger generation but also amongst the youth. The need to choose one over the other is a battle many face within themselves.

That’s where youth organisations come in the picture, as many of them work to tackle the identity crisis, they work to show that you can be yourself, be both a Somali and a Swedish, for example.


The Somali community all over the world are known for their entrepreneurship, they’ve managed to establish themselves through businesses which vary from small shops, internet cafes to restaurants and so on.Most of them believe in education and that education comes first: there is a Somali saying which goes “aqoon la’aan, waa iftiin la’aan”,which translates ”being without education, is being without light”.


Somalis abroad are a close-knit community, making this a great system which allows them to offer support in many ways. This comes particularly in handy to young refugees and asylum seekers who are reaching adulthood without a clear sense of where to take themselves. The community then steps in, offers temporary accommodation, emotional and financial support and a sense of security through their tribal linkage.


In Sweden, this strong community was an asset in placing many young adults in family homes and offering them support to integrate in their current communities, They have opened up community centres .where one can go and get the information they need in their mother tongue, have someone call authorities on their behalf and translate.

The Diaspora have put in the work and made sure different authorities and public sector translate their leaflets, brochures and information available in their mother tongue. You can sometimes see some commercials on the metro in different languages, Somali being a common one.

This is a huge progress for the Somali community, if you look at the time they migrated to Sweden and what they have achieved in this period of time, you will see why they are a proud people.


Refugee Day

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