University of Illinois at Chicago

Stories of Somali Refugees in Chicago: Exploring Roots and Routes of Migration

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posted on 2018-02-08, 00:00 authored by Ifrah Mahamud Magan
This study explored the various migration experiences of Somali refugees residing in Chicago; how such experiences have impacted their resettlement to and integration experiences into Chicago; and how these experiences of migration and resettlement have impacted their ethnic and religious identities. A transcendental phenomenological approach was utilized to conduct the research. Fifteen Somalis residing in Chicago, including ten males and five females with ages ranging from 19 to 70 years, participated in the study. Data on the experiences of Somali refugees in homeland, during civil conflict, in host nation and/or refugee camps, as well resettlement and integration in the United States, were gathered through in-depth, open-ended interview questions, and analyzed using an open-coding process. Informed by critical race theory, a stages-of-migration framework, and place-making theory, the study highlights themes related to homeland, war and trauma, race and racism, and survival through construction of community spaces and reliance on religion and spirituality. There were several key findings, including: 1) participants described an overall positive perception of homeland; 2) history of trauma and exposure to violence have had effects on migration experiences; 3) factors such as age, years in the United States., and geographical location of refugee populations impact their identity and integration experiences; 4) the Muslim ban, and new presidential administration under Donald Trump have directly impacted the Somali community as it caused fear and distress among some of the participants in this study and their families; 5) the East African Community Center (EACC) plays a vital role in the smooth resettlement and integration of the Somali community in Chicago; 6) participants have experienced racism and discrimination, whether overtly or subtly; 7) participants continue to be connected to homeland through transnational networks and play a significant role in supporting their families in East Africa; and 8) Islam has served as a protective factor in the migration route of Somali refugees. This study has several implications for policy, research, community development, social work practice, and education.



Hounmenou , Charles


Hounmenou , Charles


Social Work

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Mattaini , Mark Jeremiah , Rohan Naber , Nadine Holtschneider , Casey

Submitted date

December 2017

Issue date


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