Thursday, September 21, 2006

Drugs and Somali youths in Britain

Simon Peevers:

About 20,000 Somalis live in Bristol - making them the second largest non-white group in the city, behind Afro-Caribbeans. Community leaders are concerned about the rising numbers of young people involved in drugs.

Drugs and the crime and misery they can bring are a problem faced by every section of society. But Somalis say that they are less equipped to deal with them because of a lack of facilities and they are calling on the city council to do more.

Community worker Khalil Abdi said he believed that there needed to be a focal point to bring people together, a building like the Malcolm X Centre which was established by the long-standing Afro-Caribbean population of Bristol.

Khalil said young Somalis were getting involved with drugs because they lacked direction. He said that with fewer job opportunities, they were tempted to join the world of drug dealing by the lure of easy money.

But what they do not have, he said, was the guidance to teach them that drug dealing would almost certainly lead to trouble with the police and law, family and friends, and perhaps to their being responsible for the death of somebody who overdosed on drugs they sold.

Police said they have been working closely with the Somali community for a number of years, in order to foster good relations which can lead to cooperation and better communication.

They said that community leaders were well aware of the problems created by the Somali drug dealers who operate in the Easton, Barton Hill and St Paul's area, and were working to try and drive them out.

And Easton councillor Abdul Malik said that there was now a real opportunity for Somalis and other Muslims in the city to show they were making positive steps.

Mr Malik is working on a proposal for a new community centre which he hopes will provide the kind of support that people feel is needed to divert young people away from drugs.

Khalil said: "Things would improve if the city council could support the community more.

"The Afro-Caribbeans have had the Malcolm X Centre for many years and something like that for the Somali community would give young people somewhere to go.

"It is important because they need somebody to teach them about their culture which does not encourage the drugs and crime they are involved in.

"Somewhere to act as a focal point where young and old can come together would provide the type environment where young people could get the guidance they need as well.

"There are sports centres which do provide good facilities but there are young people who say they cannot afford to use them.

"Our young people are going to college but they are not finding work when they finish, it is a real problem for this area.

"If they are not working, they are hanging around the area and meeting the drug dealers who show them how they can easily make some money.

"If they have been applying for jobs and have been turned down many times, then there are some people who decide that the easier option to get money is to start dealing drugs.

"We are of course aware that there are Somalis involved in drug dealing in the city and we have been working hard with the police to help them arrest those who are responsible.

"We want to put over the message that we are doing what we can to deal with it but we also need the support of the city council.

"It feels that we are the only ethnic minority group without any support from the city council in Bristol."

Nimo Hussein works with young Somali women who are affected by drugs in the city, and she said she was worried about the number of girls caught up in the trade.

She said the youngsters were drawn into the criminal underworld by older men who lavish them with gifts and attention, and offer them a way to earn easy money.

Ban on khat possible after poll of drug's Somali users


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