Halima

Halima was taken to Sweden as an unaccompanied minor when she was eight years old, but brought back to Somalia by her parents after her guardian complained of her behaviour.

I am afraid that I may be killed here in Somalia. The children in the neighbourhood watch me strangely because I do not know the Somali language. In Mogadishu, people abuse and kill each other.

Halima wants to return to Sweden - but she also fears losing her Somali identity:

I was taken to Sweden after the war broke out, when I was eight years old. I had refugee status for four years, and then I was granted permission to stay. I started school and learnt the Swedish language.

The Swedish government was very compassionate to refugees. Unaccompanied minors were given a hearing and allowed to go into interviews. When the children came into conflict with their guardians, they could go to their teachers, who would ask the children what problems they had - and they almost always helped. In Sweden, they take away and care for children who are battered by their parents.

It is very difficult to live without your parents. I used to live with a kind Somali woman, who was a friend of my parents. Whenever she scolded me, I used to feel very bad. One day I was asked in school if I had any problems, and I told them of the sort of scolding I got from my foster mother. The school authorities came home and told my foster mother that she had to change, and that they would take me away from her if she ever mistreated me. This made her furious. She telephoned my parents in Somalia and told them all about it. They talked to me, and decided to bring me back. I was about 15 years old.

When I first came back, I didn't start school immediately. The children in the neighbourhood used to watch me strangely as I did not know the Somali language - I started school here [Mogadishu] about a year after I came back. It took me time to cope with the other children. My father taught me Somali traditions, while I had a private teacher to teach me Somali.

I don't think the Somali culture is a great one. It lacks civilization. People stare at you as if you are a total stranger in this country. They abuse and kill each other. There is no law and order, and the government here is weak. I prefer Sweden. There, people are civilized. People don't abuse each other or kill each other. If someone does something wrong against you, he says sorry. People share their problems...

But I was unaccompanied there, and I got lonely. Here I am living with my parents and studying too. There are things about the Swedish culture that I realize is not conducive to me, and I am afraid of losing my Somali culture. My father told me he would take me back to Sweden when I finish schooling here. I would be very happy to return - I am afraid that I may be killed here.
Lead Features
PDF files

 full report (English)
1.4 MB
 full report (Somali)
932 KB

A Gap in their Hearts - the experience of separated Somali children
Personal Accounts
Audio / Visual
Bibliography
Map
In-Depth Feedback

IRIN welcomes feedback. Send your messages to feedback.