The people known as the Somali Bantu, particularly those with a lineage to slavery, have endured discrimination and subjugation in
Somalia for 200 years. During the recent war in Somalia, the Bantu were again the victims of violence in that country. Once arriving in
Kenya as refugees in 1992, many of them stated their wish to resettle in their ancestral southeast African homelands. The Somali Bantu
refugees have been actively seeking protection through third-country resettlement since 1993. Of the roughly 20,000 Somali Bantu
refugees in Africa and Yemen, some 5,000 found refuge in Tanzania.
In 1999, the United States Government offered the remaining 12,000 Somali Bantu refugees in Kenya the protection they had been seeking
for over 10 years. The refugees will be settled in over 50 cities in 38 states. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) awards
state governments and non-profit agencies grants to facilitate the refugees' integration into this country. Portland State University's
National Somali Bantu Project, in partnership with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), was awarded an ORR "ethnic
self-help" grant in 2003. The overall goal of the project is to work with the Somali Bantu refugees and service providers to make the
resettlement and integration process more successful.
The initial objective of this project is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the service provider community about the Somali
Bantus' history, culture and practical challenges in the United States. Secondary objectives of the project include leadership training
and promoting agricultural opportunities, among others, that help build strong families and communities.