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Somalis Gather to Discuss Racism, Alienation in Australia


Young Somali immigrants say they face racism and feel unwanted in Australia. Their problems have drawn more attention since four men from Somali backgrounds were charged with planning a suicide attack on an army base in Sydney.

Community groups say that Somali refugees often are stuck in a kind of "no-man's land" between their own culture and mainstream Australia.

The Somali immigrant community suffers high unemployment. Many refugees have problems learning English or experience the lingering effects of torture and trauma. Alienation can leave some vulnerable to the influence of criminals and extremists.

Others complain of racism from mainstream Australia.

Young Somalis wrapped up a meeting Sunday to discuss these issues in Melbourne, where a series of counter-terrorism raids were carried out earlier this month.

Kamal Mohamed, who is a student, says the arrest of four Somali-born Australians in the raids will only heighten society's suspicions of him and his peers.

"Before this issue happened, terrorism claims and all that, we were slowly integrating, but now we're not integrating, it's just full stop now, there's no integration, because people have already judged us," he said.

Police also are investigating allegations that some young Somalis have traveled back to Africa from Australia to fight for radical Islamic groups.

Tens of thousands of African refugees have resettled in Australia - most arriving from Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Liberia and Somalia.

This year about 13,500 refugee visas will be issues and while millions of dollars are spent by the government helping newcomers to adapt to life in a strange, new country.

Despite efforts to help the transition, some African refugees have been accused of forming gangs, harassing women and committing violent crime.

Community leaders admit that a small minority has gotten into trouble but they say the majority has nothing but respect for Australian laws and customs.

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