A refugee is someone who must leave their home country because they are worried for their safety. Refugees move across borders to build a safer life in a new country. Many refugees come to the United States to live permanently and escape violence or other dangers. Refugees from Somalia, for example, have been coming to the U.S. for nearly 30 years. Now, they are one of the largest refugee communities in the United States.
Somalia is a country on the Horn of Africa, in the eastern part of the continent. Most people in Somalia are originally from the country. About 15% of the population is made up of minority ethnic groups. Somali is the main language spoken in the country, but Arabic is also very commonly spoken. This is because Somalia is quite near the Arabian Peninsula. 99% of Somali people are Muslim, meaning they practice the religion Islam. Islam is the state religion of Somalia. The region where Somalia is today is one of the oldest Muslim communities outside of the Middle East, where Islam is the main religion.
Over the past 30 years, political and civil struggles in Somalia became dangerous. Rival groups in the country began fighting for power. Today, there is an ongoing civil war in Somalia over who should lead the government. A civil war is when two or more groups within one country fight against one another. Since the mid-1990s, there have been over 10 peace conferences for the country. However, none have been successful in creating a lasting peace. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Somalians have fled the country as refugees. Many are also internally displaced. Someone who is internally displaced has left their home because of violence or safety concerns, but has not left the country.
Refugees from Somalia are not only fleeing violence. Severe droughts and food shortages have also hurt the population. Many Somali refugees flee to the neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia. Kenya has the largest number of Somali refugees in the world.
Since 1990, Somali refugees have been resettled in the United States. Most of these refugees are under the age 45. They are evenly split between men and women. The states with the largest number of Somali refugees are Minnesota and New York. Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the United States.
In Minnesota, Somali refugees are active members of their American communities. In their new homes, Somali children go to school and adults work in cities. Minnesota has a long history of accepting refugee communities, like the Hmong from Laos. Some schools in Minnesota even have staff dedicated to supporting Somali refugee students and their families. Outside of school, Somali refugee families often live in the same neighborhoods. There, they can continue to celebrate their culture, religion, and traditions.
Somali refugees are also involved in their communities through politics. For example, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has represented Minnesota since 2019. Omar is a refugee from Somalia and came to the U.S. in 1995. She has dedicated her career to supporting her Minnesota community. Additionally, Omar advocates for Somali refugees and preserving their safety in the United States.
Today, Somali refugees are still entering the United States. Conflicts in their home country have not ended. Many people have fled Somalia, but millions are still internally displaced. In the U.S., Somali refugees are building a new life and becoming an important part of their new communities.