Meeting with Prince Daniel
By: Hussein Samatar
One of the highlights of this trip was a personal meeting with Prince Daniel. He is very gracious and graceful. He listened very carefully and participated in the dialogue of the group effectively. I had around an hour meeting with him. In this meeting, organized by the Swedbank, I was joined by Fagersta Municipality Mayor who has recently received about 200 new Somali refugees. The Fagersta Municipality is a steel producing community and truly worried about how to best absorb the new arrivals from Somalia.
This municipality is trying creatively to accommodate the needs of the Somali refugees, but I can clearly sense the authority is quite worried about the culture and work ethic of the new community.
We listened the Mayor’s presentation and he talked about how he is balancing the needs of his city, which has been losing population before the arrival of the Somalis, and the concerns of his constituency, who can not understand where the Somalis are coming from and why are they in Fagersta all of sudden. It is delicate balance, and the mayor is determined to accommodate the Somali refugees, while attending the needs of his established constituency.
The biggest concern in Sweden is the lack of labor participation by the Somali-Swedish community. For me, the integration conversation comes down to this issue.
Of course there are other real issues, such as being black and Muslim, as well as gender-related issues. But, I felt Sweden is willing to deal with all these topics, if even incrementally, as long as the majority feels and believes the Somali-Swedish community is working towards becoming part of the labor market and not being a drag on the generous Swedish welfare system.
Clearly, Sweden made huge mistakes when first the Somalis arrived early 1990s. And some of these mistakes are:
1- Not allowing the Somali community to immediately participate in the labor market. Some of the Somali-Swedish community stayed on welfare too long and then it become difficult to enter into the labor market due to lack of language skills and formal education.
2- The labor market was inflexible, and in the early 1990s a Sweden recession did not help the Somali-Swedish community to fully participate in the labor market. This contributed to a negative reputation regarding hard work and industriousness.
3- Lack of a clear and intentional policy to help the Somali-Swedish community participate in the labor market. Addressing a particular ethnicity and helping specific groups to overcome specific issues has been taboo in Sweden for a long period of time. Things are changing now!
4- Sweden was not ready to learn from other countries about their experiences to integrate immigrants. Sweden felt they knew how to do integration. Sweden has been active international donor and player. Therefore, when new people came to their shores they felt there was no need to learn from other countries. Swedish people also felt their institutions would not discriminate new people of color who are striving to be part of Sweden.
5- Simply not ready for recognizing immigrants as full-fledged Swedes – especially black Swedes, such as Somalis.
With these shortcomings Sweden created a very precarious and bad perception for the Somali-Swedish refugees in Sweden. Of course the Somali-Swedish community in Sweden could have handled the situation differently, but they never did.
Now, there is a new national government in change, and they have been pursuing policies to enable this new community to actively participate in the labor market. I believe the younger generation of the Somali-Swedish will fair better than their older counterparts in finding work and feeling at home in Sweden.
It will take time though!
As always, if you ever feel I have made a mistake or unintentionally offended anyone, please let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org. Feedback is always appreciated.
Thank you for traveling with me and I do appreciate you reading my blog and interacting with me.