Den i Danmark konstant verserende udlændingedebat har ofte fokuseret på en særlig gruppe flygtninge/indvandrere, som i særlig grad har kunnet sætte sindende i kog nemlig somaliere.
Somaliere og deres efterkommere har angiveligt den laveste tilknytning til arbejdsmarkedet, er overrepræsenteret i kriminalitetsstatistikker og opleves af mange som havende en så fremmed kultur (særligt omskæring af piger og klan strukturen har virket provokerende) at somaliere er uintegrerbare i her i landet. På et tidspunkt gik debatten så højt, at et folketingsmedlem foreslog at løse det somaliske problem med faldskærme.
Det er ikke kun i Danmark, at somaliere generelt har klaret sig dårligt. I Sverige er situationen lige så deprimerende. Spørgsmålet er derfor om somaliere simpelthen er for "kulturfremmede" til at kunne begå sig i moderne vestlige samfund.
Dette spørgsmål har den svenske professor i økonomisk historie ved Lunds Universitet Benny Carlson søgt at belyse ved at sammenligne hvorledes somaliere i henholdsvis Sverige og Minnesota, der i højere grad end mange andre delstater har modtaget skandinaviske immigranter, klarer sig. Undersøgelsen har vakt en del opsigt og er bl.a. (ganske kort) nævnt i seneste udgave af the Economist. Der er god grund til, at undersøgelsen har fået en sådan opmærksomhed for konklusionerne er (med forbehold for lødigheden af undersøgelsen metode og data som jeg ikke kan udtale mig om) ganske slående.
Tidsskriftet Watching America har lavet skrevet en artikel med afsæt i undersøgelsen, hvorfra nedenstående udklip er hentet:
A lot of Somalis who wound up in the U.S. migrated to Minnesota, more specifically to Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Twin Cities, a metropolitan area with a population of roughly 3 million. There are an estimated 25,000 Somalis in Minnesota
[…]According to Benny Carlson, Somalis are "not a prosperous group, but they are a working group, and one that is likely developing dynamically, at that."
The employment rate lies between 55 to 60 percent. Thus it is twice as high as in Sweden.
Entrepreneurship constitutes the first – and likely the most important – explanation. There are around 800 Minneapolis businesses run by Somalis. That number is growing rapidly. In 2003, there were 38 Somali entrepreneurs in all of Sweden.
The second explanation, which is partly connected to the first, is that the Minneapolis Somalis have created an (ethnic) "enclave economy." People with a common ethnicity engage in economic activities to support themselves, to support each other – and later on, this branches out and becomes part of the surrounding community.
Corner stores become supermarkets. Holes in the wall become real restaurants. Taxi drivers join forces and launch their own carriers.
At the Safari Restaurant, Benny Carlson meets Jamal Hashi, who runs the place with his brother. Initially, they only catered to their compatriots and didn't even have a menu. Now they not only have a menu but also a non-Somali clientele. They have thirteen employees: six Mexicans, four Ethiopians and three Somalis
Business is good: "There's opportunity here." The brothers have ambitious plans about building an African fast-food chain. There may, says Jamal, even be a restaurant in Sweden, a country he describes by quoting a friend who lives there:
"There you are like a fly trapped under a glass turned upside-down. You can feel that your dreams are being smothered."
Hussein Samatar arrived in Minnesota in 1994. At the time, he spoke no English. Now he heads an entrepreneurship center, stating that "the dollar is green, not black or white." Omar Hassan, who was an accountant back in Somalia, runs a multi-service business that provides help with tax returns, applications and travel documents. And while he works very hard, he is also in his own words "the top man on the market."
The elder and religious leader Shejk Sàad Muse holds a mini-lecture about how Somalia lies strategically on the Horn of Africa, and how Somalis are therefore used to traveling, trading and adapting: "We can be Somalis, Muslims and Americans at the same time."
[…]As a consequence of all this, Sweden has more than a little to learn from Minnesota and the U.S. There, as is clear in the Minneapolis case, the service sector plays a key role as an (assimilation) gateway. The fact that Sweden and other European countries have a smaller (private) service sector than the U.S. helps explain why unemployment remains stuck at high levels: when jobs disappear in manufacturing, there are not enough new businesses and job opportunities being created in the service sector. Those most vulnerable on the labor market are the ones then most affected.
[…]A recent study by the Swedish Center for Business and Policy Studies (SNS) demonstrates that Sweden, with its regulations as well as the public sector monopoly on services, is the OECD country with the weakest long-term link between growth and employment.
The Americans understand – and celebrate – the social and economic significance of the immigrant businesses. This is in relation to both the immigrants themselves and the society as a whole. In a country like Sweden, however, entrepreneurial individuals are not seen as motors of progress. This role is reserved for the benevolent systems of the state.
Malyun Ali came to the U.S., via a refugee camp, in 1997 and now runs a little store in Minneapolis while also working in home care.
"Life is tough in the U.S., but it's good. If you have a dream, you can realize it," she tells Benny Carlson. She herself is dreaming of an even larger store, and of employing staff.
Sure it sounds somewhat idyllic. Not everyone makes it. Life as a poor immigrant in the U.S. is tough, just as Malyun says. Attitudes towards Muslims have been affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks.
But it is also tough being smothered by good intentions. To be labelled hopeless from the outset. To be a fly under the glass.
På trods af, at undersøgelsens konklusioner givetvis også er relevante for Danmark, er der næppe nogen overhængende risiko for at danske politikere tager konklusionerne til sig, domineret som Danmark p.t. er af den særlige blanding af national-konservatisme og social-demokratisme. Forvent derfor at kriminalitetsniveauet og arbejdsløsheden blandt indvandrere og deres efterkommere forbliver højt, mens den almindelige danskers tålmodighed med disse grupper formindskes og tendensen med parallelsamfund dermed forstærkes. En pris der tilsyneladende er værd at betale for at bevare illusionen om velfærdsstatens velgørende virkninger.