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Causes of African Immigration to the United States


In 1993, the first group of Somali refugees arrived in Minnesota, United States. This was as a result of the 1991 civil war after the then president, Siyad Barre, was overthrown from power leading to a collapse of their central government. The strife between local groups for power and resources led to repression and killing of innocent citizens thus causing most Somalis to flee for their lives. This has been the norm for most African countries such as the genocide in Rwanda that resulted in the killing of around 800,000 people from the Tutsi tribe.

The basis of this paper is to find the underlying issues in African countries with reference to the movie Hotel Rwanda and Somalia that cause most Africans to leave their native countries and settle in United States.

Issues in African Countries

Brief Background

Somali people are African by origin with Islam as their faith. They have many clans and sub clans originating from their ethnic group. Their economic activities revolve around livestock keeping and farming and thus are mainly pastoralists even after coming of colonialists. The colonialists divided Somalia into sections with Britain having the majority share while France, Italy and Ethiopia having equal sections. This caused a great resistance from the Somali leading to establishment of the Somali Youth League (SYL) in 1943. Somali gained its independence in 1960 and enjoyed democracy for the first 9 years. A military coup happened in 1969 where Siyad Barre took over. He repressed his people which led to the uprising of rebellious groups. Siyad countered this using the government military and police to punish civilian members suspected of being part of rebellious clans. He was overthrown in 1991 which led to collapse of the central government with no clan being able to hold onto power due to insufficient help from the military. This was the same scenario in Rwanda after assassination of the president in 1994 and upcoming of Interahamwe who were extremists leading to genocide.

Factors leading to Immigration


One of the few similarities between Somalia and Rwanda is genocide. Mass killings occurred in both countries which resulted in many citizens seeking refuge in foreign countries. Some fled to nearby refugee camps such as Daadab in Kenya, while others went as far as Europe and America. The first group to arrive to the United States had approximately 30,000 people. Genocides leave the affected people homeless, without food and fearing for their lives and thus are forced to move to other countries such as the United States.

Political Corruption

Political corruption is also major reason as to why Somalis and other people from other African countries immigrate to the United States. From the movie, Hotel Rwanda, Paul had to bribe influential people in order to guarantee the safety of his family and neighbors while having to run the hotel like its business as usual. The United Nations and other organizations were forbidden from interfering with the genocide. Similarly, the Islamist Militants in Somalia in their fight for power banned all colonial and foreign aid. Middle class citizens lacked basic amenities such as food and medication while the rich were able to access help through bribing, Hotel Rwanda, (2004).

Search for Greener Pastures

With the arrival of the Somali refugees in the United States, the government took them in and registered them as legal refugees. Certain agencies came up to help the refugees settle such as the Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities and World Relief Minnesota. They ensured that the refugees settled, learnt English, got proper healthcare and begun new lives in their new homes. Soon word reached to their families and friends that the grass was greener on the other side and thereafter a second group arrived hoping to have a taste of the better life. The total number of refugees by end of 2011 was an outstanding 84,000 all being successfully settled and accepted by the native communities. Generally Somalis and people from other African countries believe that there are better living conditions in the United States and thus reason for the continued immigration the United States, Campbell, (2016).


Following on education opportunities is also a major reason as to why Somalis immigrate to the Unites States. Especially for university education, Somalis who can afford prefer to go to the US as most universities are more prestigious. In addition, there are very few universities and prestigious schools in Somalia and the few that exist have limited resources, Campbell, (2016).

Antinomies of Globalization

African immigration has had various effects to countries of origin and to the states people immigrate to. Native countries complain of brain drain. Most people are educated and trained within their countries but as soon as they get better opportunities abroad, which is almost always the case, they leave leading to a deficiency of trained professionals in their own countries. This in turn affects the economic growth with African nations being slow and the first world maintaining a steady growth, Okome, (2005).

Anti-immigration philosophies in the United States has also been a major cause for alarm. With the current trends on immigration laws most immigrants are denied equity in terms of employment and basic social services. Most natives complain of immigrants giving them too much competition to what they think is entitled to them and thus are hostile to immigrants. With the election of Donald Trump as the president of the Unites States, more strict policies on immigration have been adopted such as limiting the number of visas available to go to US.

Somalis being Muslims has not helped the situation. They are associated with terrorism due to the rampant growth of Islam phobia and thus suffer stigmatization. A significant number of US citizens are hesitant to welcome and allow them to settle in the US.


The main causes of African immigration have mainly been genocides, political corruption and instability, search for greener pastures and education opportunities among others. The United States has provided sanctuary to over 84,000 Somali refugees and managed to provide basic amenities to help them settle comfortably. However, it has not been very easy for the immigrants as they have faced stigmatization and hostility due to anti-immigration philosophies. And ideology.


Campbell A., (2016). America’s Real Refugee Problem. The Atlantic Daily. Retrieved 9th March 2017 from

Hotel Rwanda, (2004) Retrieved 9th March 2017 from

Okome, M., (2005). The Antinomies of Globalization: Causes of Contemporary African Immigration to the Unites States of America.


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