Challenges Faced by East African Immigrant Communities

East African immigrant communities living in Calgary are faced with social and economic hardships and are unable to easily adapt to the lifestyle of their chosen country.

The social and economic challenges faced by the East African immigrant communities include everything from underemployment to racial barriers to a lack of proper education for their children and to homeland nostalgia.

Of the East African immigrant communities living in Calgary are Somalis, Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans; and all of these communities have a number of factors in common: They raise a big number of children, have low- paying jobs and suffer from a language barrier.

It is a matter of fact that taking up the challenges of raising big, traditional families have prevented immigrant parents from leading a lifestyle similar to that of Canadian mainstream society, or other already well-integrated immigrant communities, who came to Canada a long time ago.

Because of their children’s daily needs, many East African immigrant parents are unable to take time off from laborious home duties and chores that they wrestle with on a regular basis. The parents cannot afford to pay someone who can look after their children if the parents may have taken some time off and gone on vacation trips. Moreover, the immigrant parents do not feel comfortable putting their children in other peoples’ hands, who are not immediate family members of the children. Therefore, many immigrant families from the above stated communities are very nostalgic about their countries of origin and long for a day in which they can go back to their homelands and get their children taken care of by immediate family members and relatives.  

The vast majority of East African immigrant community members are either factory workers or taxi drivers. Due to a lack of proper skills or perhaps racial barriers, many immigrant people from these communities target factory and taxi industries for sources of income. They work very hard in order to support their families and send remittances to loved ones back home. Although the continuous remittances trouble the immigrants and make them financially challenged, they are compelled to continue sending the remittances to their loved ones, who endure hardships and devastating droughts back home.

And regardless of their jobs’ nature, the immigrant workers believe that they are doing fine as long as they can find work and earn a living; however, there are many immigrant people from the communities who believe that they have been marginalized and unrecognized by Canadian employment system. In fact, some East African immigrants enthusiastically go to post secondary education, obtain university degrees or diplomas; but after they graduate, they cannot find descent jobs in their respective fields of study. Consequently, the skilled immigrants become burdened, frustrated and left out in the cold, so to speak.  

Apart from the social and economic challenges the East African immigrant communities face in Calgary, they get, both economically and socially, impacted by what is taking place in their countries of origin, where civil strife and continual conflicts are rampant.