Somali community in Finland

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Somali community in Finland
Total population
20,007 (2017)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Somali · Arabic · Finnish · Swedish[2]

Somalis in Finland are residents and citizens of Finland of Somali ancestry.


Books on display at the 2012 Somali Culture Fair in Helsinki.

The first Somali immigrants came to Finland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Between 1990 and 1995, the number of Somalia citizens in Finland jumped from 44 to 4,044. The first arrivals were university students from Soviet universities in the former Soviet Union (see Zahra Abdulla). Later, more asylum seekers arrived directly from Somalia, many through a program of family unification.[3]

A 2012 Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos (THL) survey of Somalia-born immigrants in Finland found that, prior to their arrival, around 50% of males and 50% of females had attended primary school (Peruskoulu), 39% of males and 17% of females had attended high school (Lukio), and 11% of males and 33% of females had not attended school (Ei lainkaan).[4] According to Statistics Finland, in 2012, 77.9% of Somalia-born immigrants in Finland had attained a lower secondary or unknown education level, 17.9% had attained an upper secondary education level, and 4.2% had attained a tertiary education level.[5]

A Somali man and Finnish friends at a celebration in Helsinki.

Like other immigrant groups in Finland, particularly Muslims, Somalis have been targets of hate crimes. According to a 2009 report by the Police College of Finland, 8% of total victims were Somali-born, while representing only 4% of suspected offenders.[6] Most suspected perpetrators are young Finnish men, with similarly-aged Somali, Iraqi and Turkish immigrants mainly targeted.[7] According to social workers, the pressure of living between two disparate cultures has also resulted in instances of petty crime amongst disaffected 17- to 20-year-olds in the Somali community. The situation is compounded by the unfamiliarity of Somali parents with the various social services that are available to address similar circumstances. To tackle the issue, Somali community organizations have teamed up with Finnish police and social services officials, with the municipal authorities in Helsinki endeavouring to recruit more Somali social workers.[8]

As with many other immigrant groups in Finland, Somalis have also faced some barriers to employment, due in part to the local economic recession.[9][10] However, the situation has steadily improved over the years, as more Somali immigrants have found employment in their own community, although much of this work is unmeasured. While some Somalis with language training have found jobs in their own field, others, like immigrants in general, have obtained short-term work positions.[10]


Number of Somali native speakers residing in Finland (1990-2015).

Somalis are one of the larger ethnic minorities in Finland, and the largest group of people of non-European origin. They are the fourth-largest minority in the country, after Swedes, Russians and Estonians.[11] In 2009, there were 5,570 Somali citizens, but an equal number may have received Finnish citizenship. According to the Finnish National newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, the number of Somali-speaking people in Finland in 2010 rose by nearly 10% in a year.[12] In 2014, there were 16,721 Somali speakers in Finland.[1]

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