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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration > What We Are Saying > Fact Sheets and Newsletters > 2003
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
February 5, 2003

Somali Bantu Refugees

In the spring of 2003, the first Somali Bantu refugees will arrive in the United States to begin new lives. This group of approximately 12,000 refugees under consideration for admission to the U.S. has spent most of the past decade languishing in camps along the dangerous Somali-Kenyan border. Descendants of slaves taken from Tanzania and northern Mozambique in the late nineteenth century to the southern Somali coast, the Bantu have remained a persecuted minority in Somalia and cannot return to the homes they fled there.

For many years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sought a place of safe asylum where the Bantu could permanently resettle. Kenya, which struggles to meet the needs of its own population as well as the hundreds of thousands of refugees it hosts, was unable to provide permanent refuge. In 2000, the United State agreed to consider the group for resettlement in the United States.

After being moved from the border to a safer and more accessible site in Kenya, the refugees will undergo interviews with officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to determine if they are eligible for admission into the United States as refugees. In addition, rigorous security checks and medical examinations will be performed on all applicants before they are approved for resettlement. The Bantu will also be provided with literacy training and an extended program of cultural orientation in Kenya before arriving in the United States. They will be placed in extended family groups in up to fifty cities and towns across the United States throughout 2003 and 2004.

Upon arrival in the U.S., each Bantu family will be assigned to one of the ten voluntary agencies under cooperative agreement with the Department of State to provide reception and placement services. These agencies are Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Programs, Immigration and Refugee Services of America, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and World Relief Refugee Services. They will assist with basic immediate needs such as housing, furniture, clothing, food, and referrals to employment, ESL, and other services. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement provides funding to the states and voluntary agencies for longer-term programs for refugees.

For more information on the Somali Bantu, see the fact sheet on the Bantu on the Cultural Orientation website operated by the Center for Applied Linguistics: www.culturalorientation.net.



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