Belonging nowhere or everywhere? Somalian return migrants in East Africa

This project focuses on the question how experiences of migration shape the decisions to stay or to re-migrate and what specific possibilities and logics these patterns of exclusion and inclusion enable and disable. Concentrating on Somalian return migrants in Kenya the project will examine how new forms of solidarity and identification can emerge in the migration process. At the same time it will refine contemporary categorizations, such as the meaning of 'arrival' and 'return'.

When the Somalian exodus started at the beginning of the 1990s, most refugees fled to the neighbouring countries including Kenya. Later on many Somalians (i.e. people from Somalia) moved to Europe or North America, but also to Arab countries. There is, however, a growing group of Somalian migrants, who, after having lived in Europe, North America or Arab countries for a number of years, are now 'returning' to East Africa. That means in many cases, however, that they settle in Kenya, as Somalia is still regarded as too dangerous and Somaliland is often seen as economically not promising enough. In Kenya they find a strong Somali community, made up from ethnic Somalis who are Kenyan citizens, as well as refugees from Somalia who live in Kenya.

Some of these Somalian migrants in Kenya are clearly visible – these 'successful' returnees are often parents with children or young adults. The latter mostly grew up outside of East Africa and have often no remembrance of Somalia. There are, however, also those Somalians who were forced to move back to the East African region - these 'deportees' were in many cases either legally or socio-economically excluded. These patterns of exclusion and inclusion not only have to be explored with a geographical focus on different local frameworks, but also with a focus on age and generation, gender, status and class (and linked with the latter education and occupation). These factors also play a role in how exclusion and inclusion is experienced and perceived.

Baseline study on the situation and experiences of Somali migrants in Germany

(in cooperation with the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Leipzig, Dr. Markus Hoehne)
This baseline study aims at closing the huge gap of knowledge concerning Somali refugees, a significant group of African refugees in Germany. The research will be carried out by students from the university and by Somali migrants themselves, under the supervision by Dr. Markus Höhne (University of Leipzig) and Dr. Tabea Scharrer (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle). The project will explore which factors are important for the way people settle down in their new locations. Somalis often perceive themselves as 'second class refugees': they feel they do not receive the same support from the state as other refugees – particularly Syrians – would get. In addition, many Somalis do not have their cases decided quickly; they are kept in a limbo for many months and sometimes years; for a long time they found it more difficult to enroll themselves in German courses and were more often unemployed. The project will also explore if the migration histories of refugees vary according to pre-migration differences among them (e.g., in terms of education). Furthermore, it will be asked how the post-migration situation influences the perception of refugees. How did their ‘idea’ of Europe develop over the course of migration? What kind of image of Germany did Somali migrants have before they arrived, and how did it change? How does everyday racism and/or Islamophobia play out concerning Somalis in Germany? Furthermore, the research investigates if there is considerable ‘onward-migration’ within Europe, or if there are any deportations/voluntary returns happening from Germany back to Somalia, and if so, on which legal basis? Last, but not least, we ask how are these migration experiences and perceptions ‘broadcasted’ (via Facebook and other social media) to relatives and friends back home, and why?

Academic supervisors

  • Dr. Markus Hoehne (University of Leipzig)
  • Dr. Tabea Scharrer (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Student researchers (all Leipzig University)

  • Inga Albrecht
  • Malika Autorkhanova
  • Vittoria Fiore
  • Monika König
  • Julia Kühl
  • Stephan Steuer

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