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The Somali diaspora refers to expatriate Somalis who reside in areas of the world that have traditionally not been inhabited by their ethnic group. The Somali Civil War greatly increased the size of the Somali diaspora, as many of the best educated Somalis left for the Middle East, Europe and North America.



While the distribution of Somalis per country in Europe is hard to measure since the Somali expatriate community on the continent has grown so quickly in recent years, there are significant Somali communities in Norway: 19,656 (2007)[1]; the Netherlands: 19,549 (2008)[2]; and Denmark: 16,550 (2008).[3]

Although most Somalis in the United Kingdom are recent arrivals, the first Somalis to arrive were seamen and traders who settled in port cities in the late 19th century.[4] By 2001, the UK census reported 43,532 Somali-born residents,[5] making the Somali community in Britain the largest Somali expatriate population in Europe. Recent unofficial estimates, however, suggest that between 95,000 and 250,000 Somalis may now live in the UK,[6][7] with Somali community organisations putting the figure at 90,000 residents.[4]

Established Somali communities are found in London, Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol, and newer ones have formed in Manchester, Sheffield and Leicester.[6][8] The Somali population in London alone accounts for roughly 78% of Britain's Somali residents.[9] There has also been some secondary migration of Somalis to the UK from the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.[10]

North America


United States

Recycling sign in Minneapolis which includes Somali language instructions.

The first Somalis to arrive in the United States came in the 1940s. They were seamen and New York was their destination. In the late 1970s, more Somali immigrants followed suit. However, it was not until the 1990s when the civil war broke out in Somalia that the majority of Somalis first arrived in the US.

The heaviest concentrations of Somalis in the US are in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul), followed by Washington, DC; Columbus, Ohio; New York City; Buffalo, New York; Kansas City; San Diego and San Francisco metro areas.

As of 2004, an estimated 25,000 Somalis lived in the US state of Minnesota, with the Twin Cities harboring the largest population of Somalis in North America.[11] The city of Minneapolis hosts hundreds of Somali-owned and operated businesses. Colorful stalls inside several malls offer everything from halal meat, to stylish leather shoes, to the latest fashion for men and women, as well as gold jewelry, money transfer or hawala offices, banners advertising the latest Somali films, video stores fully stocked with nostalgic love songs not found in the mainstream supermarkets, groceries, and boutiques.[12] The number of Somalis has especially surged in the Cedar-Riverside area (in particular, Riverside Plaza) of Minneapolis.


Canada hosts one of the largest Somali populations in the Western world, with the census reporting 37,785 people claiming Somali descent,[13] though unofficial estimates place the figure as high as 200,000 residents.[14] Somalis tend to be concentrated in the southern part of the province of Ontario, especially the Ottawa and Toronto areas. The Albertan cities of Calgary and Edmonton have also seen a significant increase in their respective Somali communities over the past five years. In addition, the neighbourhood of Rexdale in Toronto has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. Statistics Canada's 2006 Census ranks people of Somali descent as the 69th largest ethnic group in Canada.[13]

Middle East

Somalis now comprise one of the largest immigrant communities in the United Arab Emirates. Somali-owned businesses line the streets of Deira, the Dubai city centre. Internet cafes, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and import-export businesses are all testimony to the Somalis' entrepreneurial spirit. Star African Air is also one of three Somali-owned airlines which are based in Dubai.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Population 1st January 2006 and 2007 and changes in 2006, by immigrant category and country background
  2. ^ Statistics Netherlands
  3. ^ StatBank Denmark
  4. ^ a b Dissanayake, Samanthi (2008-12-04). "British Somalis play politics from afar". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  5. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  6. ^ a b Casciani, Dominic (2006-05-30). "Somalis' struggle in the UK". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  7. ^ Sare, Jeremy (2008-06-05). "Adrift in the UK". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  8. ^ "Born abroad: Somalia". BBC News. 2005-09-07. Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  9. ^ BBC News with figures from the 2001 Census
  10. ^ Kleist, Nauja (2004). Nomads, sailors and refugees: A century of Somali migration. Sussex Migration Working Paper. 23. University of Sussex. pp. 11. Retrieved 2009-01-25.  
  11. ^ Mosedale, Mike (February 18, 2004), "The Mall of Somalia", City Pages
  12. ^ Talking Point by M.M. Afrah Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) Aug., 12. 2004
  13. ^ a b Statistics Canada - Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada Highlight Tables, 2006 Census
  14. ^ Somali Canadians Today | Taariikh - History
  15. ^ Somalis cash in on Dubai boom from the BBC

External links


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