(Leicester mercury) – Leicester’s Somali community has fitted into city life thanks to things such as in schooling, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a strong community.
A report comparing seven cities has shown that Somali people have integrated better in Leicester than many other places.
The Somalis in Leicester report, drawn up by the Open Society Foundations, was launched this afternoon at Leicester Town Hall.
It provides a detailed analysis of the city’s 15,000-strong Somali community – one of the largest in the UK.
It looks into daily experiences of Somalis in Leicester, as well as six other European cities – Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, Malmo and Oslo.
Jawaahir Daahir, 51, of Evington, who worked as a researcher on the project, and is also the director of Somali Development Services, moved to Leicester 14 years ago.
She left Somalia in 1990 because of the civil war and moved to Holland, before heading to Leicester a decade later.
She said: “I moved in 2000 to Leicester because of the multicultural aspect and freedom of religion here.
“The first thing that struck me was the diversity and how people respect each other.”
She added that she felt like she was at home here, and there was a strong sense of inclusion – confirmed by the research in the report.
She said: “Everyone we spoke to loves the city and the multicultural aspect. We have interaction and a good relationship with our neighbours.”
Abdish Tarah, 45, of St Matthew’s, has lived in Leicester for 12 years, and said it had always been a positive experience for him.
He said: “I am delighted to live in Leicester because of the level of acceptance and diversity in terms of education.
“I moved here because I was visiting my family and I really liked the atmosphere – it was very diverse. There are also opportunities to make contributions to our society.”
Nazia Hussain, director of Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project, said a lot could be learned from Leicester.
She said: “What is interesting about Leicester is a lot of Somalis have moved from other EU cities.
“It is a positive story in Leicester, not without its challenges, but they are ones Leicester can overcome.
“The women have been the forefront in moving forward with the integration process.”
She said the report showed Somalis learned from the experience of other minority groups who previously settled in the city from places such as south Asia and the West Indies.
Councillor Manjula Sood, Leicester’s assistant city mayor for community involvement, partnerships and equalities, said: “I am very pleased to be supporting the launch of this research here in Leicester.
“The council and its partners work hard to try to ensure the successful integration of all new communities in our city, and we welcome new information that will help us to do this.
“These findings will help us to learn more about the local Somali community, and we will consider them carefully in our future decision and policy making.”
The report also found that despite the community’s strong sense of belonging and high marks on improved education attainment, there were still a some of problems, for example in health and housing.
It found that Somalis lived in some of the most disadvantaged wards, feel discriminated when seeking health care and feel exploited by landlords.
The report made a few recommendations about ways to move forward.
These include a more effective consultation with Somali communities in service delivery and employment, as well as exploring the establishment of a small loans and grants system to facilitate enterprises in the city to aid economic development.
Another recommendation was to raise awareness among tenants about their rights and the regulations that govern private tenancy.