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Socio-Economic Participation of Somali Refugees in the Netherlands, Transnational Networks and Boundary Spanning

Social Inclusion. 2020;8(1):264-274 DOI 10.17645/si.v8i1.2434


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Journal Title: Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2183-2803 (Online)

Publisher: Cogitatio

LCC Subject Category: Social Sciences: Sociology (General)

Country of publisher: Portugal

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Ilse van Liempt (Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Gery Nijenhuis (Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, The Netherlands)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 15 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

In this article we analyse the socio-economic participation of Somali refugees in the Netherlands. Unemployment is higher among Somalis than any other refugee or immigrant group in the Netherlands and they face many obstacles when it comes to social and economic participation. At the same time, they are known for having a strong transnational orientation. We were interested to learn whether and, if so, how Somalis use their transnational networks to overcome obstacles on the Dutch labour market and how boundaries around formal labour markets are negotiated in order to access employment and to participate. We did so by focusing on two strategies employed to participate, namely through Somali organizations in the Netherlands and elsewhere, and by Somalis moving to the UK. In doing so, we looked at Somalis’ ability to span boundaries to create opportunities. The concept of transnational networks is helpful in understanding Somalis’ daily realities, but conceptually it does not seem to fit entirely as these networks usually only refer to connections with the ‘homeland.’ We argue that Somalis’ boundary-spanning activities move beyond national levels and involve various scales, sites, and settings. The data we refer to are derived from focus group discussions with 66 Somali people in Amsterdam and 20 interviews with experts who work with the Somali community in the Netherlands. These discussions and interviews were held in 2013–14. We also draw on 20 interviews with Somali organizations in the Netherlands about their transnational orientation, which were conducted between 2010 and 2013 in the context of another research project.