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  • Somali Migrations and Displacements
  • Fatuma Ahmed Ali

Recently, I had an interesting experience in the immigration office while picking up my new Kenyan passport. One of the officers there approached and directed me to the reception desk; to my shock, he told his colleague at the desk, "Please attend to this Somali migrant/refugee." As a Kenyan citizen of Somali ethnicity, I did not expect this at all. However, I believe that this happened because most of the time in the eyes of the Kenyan authorities, there is not much distinction between Kenyan Somali citizens and Somali refugees/migrants. Ever since this occurrence, I have been pondering the question of exactly who is an immigrant or refugee in Africa? This subject is particularly perplexing, considering the history of migration and people's livelihoods from the pre-colonial era.

Contemporary wars and armed conflicts completely devastate the communities involved, fundamentally changing the lives of those affected. What was known becomes unknown, what was safe becomes unsafe, and what was familiar becomes unfamiliar (Bonnin 1998). In this way, war and armed conflict constitute a serious threat to human security (Ahmed Ali 2019). Furthermore, people become vulnerable when they are displaced and removed from their daily livelihoods. Displacement is often viewed as a temporary or transitory phenomenon; however, recent history in countries such as Somalia demonstrates that it can sometimes become a prolonged, if not permanent, condition.

Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly since the dawn of the global War on Terror, refugees and migrants have found themselves securitized and constructed as dangerous others, labeled as security and economic threats to the host nations. Issues pertaining to their legal status, identity, and economic activities have caused refugees and migrants to be further politicized and framed within the compounded context of security and migration. This understanding has informed the various policies and approaches adopted by host countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Australia, Greece, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Moreover, in situations where conflicts have become protracted, the experiences and status of refugees have become correspondingly more complex.

The contributions to this forum advance the existing literature on migration, displacement, and the diaspora experience with a focus on Somali refugees and migrants, promising to expand our understanding of one of the most complex humanitarian issues of the twenty-first century. [End Page 117] They underline certain exemplary aspects and address gaps in the literature on the Somali diaspora in Africa and beyond, such as the role of the ruling political party/regimes or leader in shaping the immigration policies and the impact of structural and cultural violence on the bureaucratic management of the Somali refugee resettlement program in Kenya. The authors have skillfully achieved two crucial objectives: they have focused on a timely and fascinating issue while also directing our attention to the contemporary realities and developments of Somali migrants and refugees in Africa and beyond.

Despite the wealth of literature available on the Somali diaspora, including studies on migration flows, transnational networks, and the continued engagement of migrants with their country of origin—which includes but is not limited to providing financial remittance—there continues to be insufficient evidence-based research on host countries' migration management policies, women's agency in identity construction, and mobility through private enterprise. With this in mind, the forum contributions here focus on three main areas, namely, the impacts of migration policies and bureaucracies of host countries on Somali refugees in East and South Africa; Somali women's agency in navigating and negotiating a range of identities (such as gender, ethnic/cultural, religious, and socioeconomic); and the nexus between the Somali diaspora migration/mobility and the development of Somali entrepreneurial skills in Asia, particularly in China.

Beth Elise Whitaker contributes to the thematic area on the impact of host countries' migration policies with an article that demystifies the so-called refugee crisis by observing that most African migrants and refugees are found in other African countries and that migration is not a new phenomenon. This runs counter to reports heavily articulated by media outlets, which stress that migration has become a transnational security issue. It is commonly assumed that international migration is the...


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pp. 117-123
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