Almost 100,000 Somali Refugees Admitted to US Since 9/11; 99.6% Muslim

Patrick Goodenough | September 19, 2016 | 4:15am EDT
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Al-Shabaab fighters on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia in 2011. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor, File)

( – Almost 100,000 Somali refugees have been resettled in the United States since 9/11, including 8,619 so far during the current fiscal year. The largest number – some 16 percent of the total over the past 15 years – have been resettled in Minnesota, home to the nation’s biggest Somali-American community.

Of the 97,046 Somali refugees admitted to the U.S. since the fall of 2001, 99.6 percent were Muslim, and 28,836 (29.7 percent) were males between the ages of 14 and 50.

In FY 2015 Somalis were the third largest contingent of refugees admitted to the U.S. – 8,858, or 12.6 percent of the total from around the world. Only Burma, with 26.3 percent, and Iraq, with 18.1 percent, accounted for larger groups of refugees arriving in the country.

The biggest influx of Somali refugees over the past 15 years occurred during the FY 2004-2006 period, after which the numbers dwindled before picking up again from FY 2014-2016, State Department Refugee Processing Center data show.


The man who carried out a terror attack at a mall in central Minnesota on Saturday night was identified by family as Dahir Adan, a 22-year-old Somali-American college student whose father said was born in Africa and came to the U.S. 15 years ago, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The attacker stabbed nine people at the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, a city of 67,000 about 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis, before an off-duty police officer shot and killed him.

Somali-American community leaders condemned the attack, which Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) claimed was carried out by “a soldier of the Islamic state.”

The Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota has the largest Somali-American community in the country, according to the Somali Museum of Minnesota, one which has long grappled with the problem of radicalization among some of its youth.

Since 2007, according to the FBI, several dozen young men from Minneapolis-Saint Paul have traveled to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliate.  One of them, Shirwa Ahmed, became what the FBI believes was the first American suicide bomber in Somalia when he detonated a car bomb there in October 2008.

More recently, nine young men from the community were arrested on suspicion of plotting to join ISIS in Syria. Six pleaded guilty, while the other three were convicted last June of plotting to join the group and commit murder abroad.

(Al-Shabaab’s biggest terrorist attack outside of Somalia targeted a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2013 and cost 67 lives. Early last year the terrorist group in a propaganda video threatened attacks on malls in Western countries, including the Mall of America in Minnesota.)

Since shortly after al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. 15 years ago, 97,046 Somalis fleeing civil war and Islamist extremism in their homeland have been admitted to the United States. Of those, 15,681 were resettled in Minnesota, 7,493 in Ohio, 7,179 in Texas, 6,136 in New York, 5,678 in Arizona, 4,513 in Washington State, along with smaller numbers in other states.

The figures were highest during the middle years of the George W. Bush administration, with 13,331 Somali refugees admitted in FY 2004, 10,405 in FY 2005 and 10,357 in FY 2006.

The numbers declined towards the end of the Bush presidency, dropping to 6,969 in FY 2007 and to 2,523 in FY 2008.

The early years of the Obama administration saw the numbers fairly stable – 4,189 in FY 2009, 4,884 in FY 2010, and down to 3,161 in FY 2011, then back up to 4,911 in FY 2012.

The numbers then began picking up again. In FY 2013, 7,608 arrived, in FY 2014, 9,000 were admitted, and in FY 2015 the figure was 8,858. With a fortnight to go, FY 2016 so far has seen 8,619 Somali refugees admitted.

In its report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions for FY 2017, the administration has not given a projected number of Somali refugees for the new fiscal year. But it does say that Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to account for the “vast majority” of refugee admissions from African countries.

The report also states that the total FY 2017 target from Africa is 35,000, up from 27,500 in FY 2016, with the proportion of countries of origin expected largely to mirror those of this year.

The vast majority of the Somali population is Muslim, mostly Sunni, and the statistics of those admitted to the U.S. as refugees reflect that: Of the 97,046 Somali refugees resettled in the U.S. since the fall of 2001, 96,725 (99.6 percent) are Muslims.

Of the rest, 299 are Christians, one is Baha’i, 14 are refugees whose religion is unknown, six are identified as having “no religion,” and one as “other religion.”

Of the 97,046 Somali refugees admitted to the U.S. since 9/11, 28,836 (29.7 percent) are males between the ages of 14 and 50, while 27,409 (28.2 percent) are females across that age group.

Another 34,287 (35.3 percent) are children under 14 and the remaining 6,514 (6.7 percent) are men and women aged over 50.

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