- A Comparative study of Somali women refugees in England and Italy
- Polese, Cinzia
- University of East London
This paper provides a comparative study of older Somali refugee women in Italy and in London, examining their different experiences of exile. By providing a comparative analysis, the paper aims to show how the culture of the host country can have a deep impact on the Somali community.
The research looked at the position and experiences of elderly Somali women living in Italy and the UK for both long [ten-15 years] and short [a few months] periods of time. In the summer of 2001, a sample of 20 Somali women between the ages of 40 and 55 years old were contacted for interview: ten in London and ten in Italy. A snowballing technique provided the sampling frame. The interviews were semi-structured and conducted face-to-face in Italian or English, as necessary.
This paper found that those interviewed in the UK had Exceptional Leave to Remain [ELR] and were not working. They expressed feelings of loneliness and isolation and had low levels of interaction with the host community. Those in Italy on the other hand, had the status of ‘immigrants’ and were working, mostly as domestic helpers. They also had more structured patterns of social interaction with Italians, unlike those in the UK. All interviewees expressed nostalgia for Somalia and a desire to return to their country of origin.
This paper found a notable difference between Somali women in Italy and those in the UK. The women in Italy were found to be more open and friendly and had more Italian friends, suffering less from loneliness and isolation than those in the UK. A further key difference is the immigration status of the women in the two countries: in the UK the majority of Somalis have refugee status, whilst in Italy they were first refused asylum and after two years granted a residence permit for humanitarian reasons which was valid for one year and renewable thereafter. Further, in Italy the government provides no assistance to refugees; this is mostly organised by private organisations. The paper suggests that the reasons for the different experiences of the Somali communities in the two countries may derive from differences in legislation leading to different outcomes, especially those regarding employment opportunities. In the UK it is difficult to find work, yet in Italy they must work to survive. Uncertainties about status may also affect outcomes.
- Resource Type
- Conference paper
- Contact Details
Refugee Council Archive, University of East London Library: http://www.uel.ac.uk/rca/index.htm