The Professional Capacity of Nationals from the Somali Regions in Britain

Author: Atfield, Gaby, Bloch, Alice

Author Organisation: Goldsmith's College

Date: 2002



The research aimed 'to obtain a profile of the professional capacity of Somali nationals living in Britain.' Under particular examination were three objectives that sort to ascertain respectively the 'skills, qualifications and employment experiences that Somali refugees brought with them on arrival to Britain and had obtained since living here.' A fourth objective was to 'explore the aspirations for voluntary return and any assistance required to facilitate return.'


The data collection for the research was conducted in March and April 2002 and involved a questionnaire survey of 200 respondents. This was composed of 150 self-completion questionnaires and 50 face-to-face interviews. The interviews helped to ensure individuals with low levels of literacy were included in the research. The appendix gives the names of the 'gatekeeper organisations' involved in the report. The fieldwork utilised two male and two female bi-lingual interviewers to translate the questionnaire and to conduct the interviews in seven British cities. Each of London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool had established Somali community and gatekeeper organisations that assisted with the research. In total, 26 organisations took part, with a greater proportion based in London, which reflected the size of the community there.

Key Findings

The key findings from the report can be divided into four sections:

  • Language and literacy - the research found that Somali nationals living in Britain had a range of skills in both their first language and in English. Between the genders, men were more proficient at both languages than women and were often multi-lingual, speaking Arabic as well as Somali and English.
  • Education and qualifications - 59% had a qualification from the Somali region, and 9.5% from outside Britain or the Somali regions. 11.5% had a degree or higher degree from the Somali regions compared to 3.5% from beyond Britain and the Somali regions. Since being in Britain, 14% had gained a degree and 12.5% were studying for a degree.
  • Training and employment - only 14.5% of respondents within Britain were involved in a specific training course, and this was thought to be due to the lack of labour market participation. Only 5% of this 14.5% were involved in a government training scheme and yet 'fewer respondents had done any training for work outside Britain.' Furthermore and despite considerable skills and experience brought to Britain through previous employment, 'occupational downgrading' and 'segregation' was prevalent amongst respondents. 'Those who were working at the time of the survey were the most secure about their immigration status, had been living in Britain for five years or more, had the greatest levels of fluency in English and were the group who had the highest level of education in Britain.'
  • Return to the Somali regions - 78% said that at some point they would like to return to the Somali regions, compared to 10% that 'might like to return', while 10% did not want to return due to future political and regional uncertainty. In conjunction with any potential return, respondents predominantly requested assistance with improvements to the infrastructure of the Somali regions, as well as employment prospects for men, health provisions for women and education opportunities for children.


In conclusion, the research found that the respondents were highly skilled and educated, often having achieved a large amount of employment experience. The majority expressed a desire to return to the Somali regions at some point in the future and the report identified the ways in which this is already being achieved through the voluntary returns programme. Further returns could be encouraged through a commitment to the development of the types of assistance identified by the respondents.

Title Information:

Report to Refugee Action and IOM

Web Link: N/A


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