Apr 4th 2007 | TOXTETH, LIVERPOOL
From The Economist print edition
Things are looking up for Britain's largest refugee community
GLOOM had descended on the Lodge Lane Somali Women's Group. The landlord was selling up and the small Liverpool charity did not have enough money to buy him out. Eviction was two weeks away. Then in walked Mariam Gulaid, the group's treasurer, with a bulging carrier bag. Inside was £14,100 in cash, raised in a whirlwind door-to-door collection from local Somalis—“all women,” she adds proudly. They are now on the way to buying the building.
Little is known of Britain's Somalis. Even counting them is hard: the 2001 census came up with a total of 43,691, but surveys since then suggest a number nearer 100,000. A century-old trickle of economic migrants became a flood of refugees in the 1980s, increasing in the late 1990s as tens of thousands fled violence. Somalis are now Britain's largest refugee group.
News tends to focus on the criminal exploits of their young men, who have acquired a fearsome reputation in some quarters. Reporters might learn more from the women: they are finding their feet, and helping friends and family find theirs.
“The men always say that women change when they come to England,” says Mrs Gulaid, who estimates that at least half the women who come through her door are single parents, either through death or, increasingly, divorce. For women, life in Britain means support from the state and, through this, independence from their husbands, she says.
Somali men seem to have a bumpier transition. Three-quarters have been to secondary school and one in ten has a degree, but language difficulties and unrecognised qualifications make unemployment the norm. Jill Rutter, a migration researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think-tank, estimates that 65-70% are out of work. All-night sessions chewing qat also play their part (see article).
Down the road from Lodge Lane is the Merseyside Somali Community Association, a men's club. The brightly painted building is more a social venue than the action-oriented women's centre, which means that some men sneak into the women's group for advice. Osman Mohamed, its chairman, says hysteria about terrorism and suspicion directed at groups of black youths have given Somali men a reputation they do not deserve.
It is hard to sort fact from fiction, as crime figures are broken down only by broad racial categories. Somalis have made the news for a few ruthless crimes, including the murder of Sharon Beshenivsky, a rookie police officer, in 2005. But police say these villains are unrepresentative. Paul Hurst, a police constable who has patrolled Toxteth's Somali neighbourhood for 21 years (and visited Somalia on a police bursary), reckons a hard core of about 30 Somali youths are active in car crime and low-level drug-dealing in the city. Nonetheless, crime in Somali “Tocky”, as Toxteth is known, is lower than in neighbouring Picton and Wavertree, and light-touch policing has kept the peace. A repeat of the bloody Toxteth riots of 1981, when local Afro-Caribbeans clashed with police, is unthinkable, everyone agrees.
The outlook for young Somalis is brightening. Lack of English among newly arrived refugees has prevented progress at school: a 1999 study of students in Camden, north London, found that just 3% got five good GCSE qualifications, compared with 48% of all students (and 21% of refugee children). But as the number of asylum seekers has plummeted, achievement has soared: in 2005 24% of Somalis in Camden got their five good passes.
The fall in new arrivals has also damped down clan tensions, often blamed for causing fractures in the community. The Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees, a research body, counts at least 100 Somali organisations in London. Now, Liverpool's various bodies have overcome their differences to form an umbrella group, which is badgering the council for a joint community centre.
Image remains crucial, especially to elders who fear their community is unfairly smeared by impostors. Economic migrants from all over east Africa (some of them ethnic Somalis) claim to be from Somalia to boost their chances of gaining asylum: a favourite pastime of British Somalis is spotting the fakes. Hussain Osman, on trial for trying to blow up a London station in July 2005, is considered one of Britain's highest-profile Somalia-born refugees. He may be nothing of the sort. Italian police say he is Hamdi Issac, and Ethiopian.
Charity reneges on deal to sell women’s refuge
Jul 11 2007
by Caroline Innes, Liverpool Daily Post
A GROUP of women who fled the horror of civil war in Africa may lose their Liverpool safe haven.
Refuge provides a vital service
Jul 11 2007
by Liverpool Daily Post
IT IS disturbing that a group of Somali women in Liverpool – many of whom are refugees and asylum seekers escaping the horrors of civil war – are facing eviction from their safe haven.
Why are we being kicked out of our city home?
Jul 11 2007
by Christina Demetriades, Liverpool Echo
THE LIVERPOOL Somali women's group is facing eviction from the building they have occupied for nearly 20 years.
A rock and a hard place there! I'm sympathetic to the Somali women if they thought they had a done deal. On the other hand the estate agents might see themselves as having a duty to get the highest amount possible for the vendor.
Isn't that the estate agent's job? And anyway, wasn't it the choice of the owner? Surely the owner wants the highest price possible for the property? People get made homeless all the time, it's nothing new.
Could also be that the rent is set far too low to maintain sustainability at its current rate.
perhaps thats the reason behind it?
Somali Women's Centre Lodge Lane
Part of the problem is that apart from not mixing with the local white population, immigrant groups do not mix with each other. So we have Somali, Yemeni, Bangladeshi etc groups in the Lodge Lane/ Granby area all trying to operate independently. If they cooperated with each other ( all are muslims) then perhaps more could be achieved.
Women buy haven in bid to beat threat of eviction
Jul 13 2007
by Caroline Innes, Liverpool Daily Post
A SOMALIAN women’s group threatened with eviction from their Liverpool safe haven yesterday went to auction to secure a remarkable last-ditch success in a bid to secure the future of their charity.
Members of the group, who had mounted a protest outside the auction at Haydock Racecourse said they were full of relief after winning the bidding for their Lodge Lane premises in competition with three developers.
However, the women, many of whom have fled the horror of civil war in Africa, now have another fight on their hands after offering to pay £120,000 for the premises they have occupied for 20 years.
They only have £80,000 in the bank and have just 28 days to raise the £40,000 shortfall.
On Wednesday, the Daily Post reported the group’s struggle to keep the building they call “The House” after they claimed their landlord, Childwall charity Homelink, reneged on an alleged deal to sell the building to them at an agreed price of £80,000.
Sounds like Liverpool's Somali community have just been ripped-off for £40K.
Somali lessons in city schools
Jan 31 2008
by Ben Turner, Liverpool Echo
LIVERPOOL schools will become among the first in the country to add Somali to their timetables.
A pioneering course will be tried out in classrooms in the south of the city in late February.
Education chiefs said it was the first step to introducing the language at the equivalent of both GCSE and A-level for Liverpool pupils.
Somali is traditionally just a verbal language and the written version is less than 50 years old.
But the course will see pupils tested on everything from vocabulary to grammar, and it will be upgraded to a more advanced level each academic year.
If it proves a winner, lessons will be open to non-Somali pupils, as well as the 500 city schoolchildren who speak the language as their mother tongue.
Liverpool council’s ethnic minority and traveller achievement service, which works with the city’s 4,000 pupils who speak English as their second language, is overseeing the pilot.
Manager Barbara Higgins said: “As far as we aware, the course is the first of its kind.
“The Somali language has traditionally just been a verbal language and has only been written down over the last two generations, which probably explains why there is no GCSE in it, for example.
“It will be taken after school by six students aged from 11-15 in the south of the city initially, but we plan to extend it across the city.”
Ms Higgins added: “We already offer Arabic at GCSE and A-level and the feedback we receive is it improves results in other subjects.”
Liverpool is home to around 9,000 Somalis.
Farah Yusuf, manager of the Liverpool Somali Association, said: “I think it is great and will be a valuable tool.”
Source: Liverpool Echo
Did gangs arrange fatal park brawl?
Police probe gang link in Sefton Park murder
Mar 12 2008
by Richard Down, Liverpool Daily Post
THE murder of a Somali teenager on the boundary of a leafy Liverpool Park may be the result of a pre-arranged fight.
Up to 16 other Somalis brandishing sticks and golf clubs were involved in a large scale brawl at Sefton Park on Monday night.
The fight resulted in 17-year-old Ahmed Mohammad Ibrahim suffering fatal head injuries just yards from his home at Brompton Avenue. Another 17-year-old received arm and head injuries and both boys were taken to The Royal Liverpool Hospital.
Killer gang ‘used a machete’ in Sefton Park attack
Mar 12 2008
by Luke Traynor, Liverpool Echo
THE gang responsible for the brutal murder of a 17-year-old Somali boy was armed with a sickening arsenal of weapons.
Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim was battered to death in Sefton Park on Monday night.
His killing was said to be the result of a simmering feud within the city’s Somali community.
Trouble is these Somalis have seen it all and lived with that way of life.Being decapitated,butchered or whatever is just a normal day to them.
Tributes paid to student killed by gang in Sefton Park
Mar 13 2008
by Luke Traynor and Saeed Mohamed, Liverpool Echo
FRIENDS and family today paid tribute to the Somalian student killed by an armed gang in a Liverpool park.
Families haunted by fear of gang war
Mar 25 2008
by Saeed Mohamed, Liverpool Echo
Local journalist Saeed Mohamed looks at a Toxteth community torn apart by gang feuds, the scars of civil war and two generations desperate for help
STUDENT Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim was battered to death in Sefton Park by a gang of fellow Somalis.
Local sources said the 17-year-old was the innocent victim of a simmering feud.
Another 17-year-old, believed to be Ahmed’s cousin, had his fingers chopped off in the same gruesome attack.
Today the ECHO looks at the south Liverpool community to try to establish how such hatred was born.
The city is home to one of the largest and longest-established Somali communities in Britain, which is facing uncomfortable questions with the emergence of gang culture and crime.
The recent murder has created unease among people unaccustomed to such violence.
Despite Somalis living in Liverpool for more than two centuries, little is known about them.
This lack of information obscures the serious difficulties they face in adjusting and integrating into the city.
The Liverpool Somalis have always been close-knit since arriving on these shores as seamen and traders.
Many people have forgotten, or are unaware of, the sacrifices they made in the two world wars , serving with distinction in the Royal Navy and the Burma campaigns.
But the situation changed with the arrival of refugees fleeing civil war in the 1990s.
After the collapse of the Somali government in 1991 much of the country descended into chaos.
Ever since, the east African country has been in a state of anarchy.
Many Somalis in Liverpool still recall the horrifying experiences they went through.
Shamsadeen Jama, 35, said: “I remember the war. I saw my neighbour killed.
“Everybody was a target, women, children, the elderly, the warlords made no exemption.”
Nobody knows exactly how many of the young Somalis have brought their traumatic experience of war with them.
Certainly some community leaders suggest the internal tribal disputes were not left behind.
Mohamed “Jimmy” Ali said he has witnessed the pain, and he said questions must be asked about how the city council helps integrates troubled minorities.
Two years ago the Liverpool social worker became Britain’s first Somali councillor, although he has since lost his seat.
He said: “Somali kids just don’t get any help. They come from a war zone and they have no idea about Britain.
“And that is why they need support.”
A large number of small Somali groups are directly competing with each other for the same funding – a pitfall avoided by other ethnic minority groups who don’t suffer from the same inter-communal differences.
It is in this vacuum of missing social networks some alienated young Somali men have forged a defensive gang identity.
According to academic Dr Jo Arthur, who conducted a research project on the community, there are clear tensions over cultural identity, social issues and education.
These tensions are linked to a gap between the older community and the younger generation.
Merseyside Somali community co-ordinator Insaf Hagelsafi said lack of investment was a major issue at the local centre.
She said: “The community relies on very few donations and the level of service we provide is huge.
“But we don’t get the money to cover the cost or expand the level of service.”
Everybody within the ever-growing Somali community seems to want more from the city council which last month announced it was to include Somali in the school timetable for the first time.
Mr Ali claimed the authority authorised the building of a new educational, cultural, and sporting facility while he was serving on the council.
He added: “The council approved the facility but since I left nothing has happened.
“They have neglected the Somali, and to a certain extent the Yemeni communities, and it’s high time they did something.
“I found children unofficially excluded from lessons, sitting alone in the corridor because teachers have effectively given up trying to communicate.”
His claims were denied by a Liverpool council spokesman who said: “What we said to the Somali community was that if land becomes available within the Granby area we would donate it for educational purposes.
“But the land never became available and we never promised anything.”
The blame game may go on, but locals feel progress can be made only if council and the community representatives come together and address the serious problems of alienation and frustration.
Youth worker Ali Warsame said: “This community is already behind other minorities. The gap will continue to grow.”
Local man Casey, 18, said: “The community doesn’t get anything jobs wise. That’s why there is high unemployment.”
Liverpool might call itself the “World in One City” but if it continues to neglect one of the biggest and oldest communities it might lose the colour, vibrancy and culture it brings.
The danger is the emergence of more gang culture.
There is a feeling the older generation within the Somali community must help and encourage younger members. The younger generation must step up and do more for their community, rather than expecting the community to do something for them.
Five men accused
FIVE men were charged in connection with the murder of Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim.
Khadar Mohammed, 22, and Essa Mohammed Ismail, 21, of Ritson Street, Toxteth, both appeared at Liverpool magistrates’ court on March 14 charged with the teenager’s murder.
They were remanded in custody for a preliminary hearing at Liverpool crown court on March 28.
Ahmed Kayse Ahmed, 29, of London; Ali Mohammed, 19, of Ritson Street, Toxteth and Ibrahim Ahmed, 22, of Beaconsfield Street, Toxteth, were also charged with murder and appeared in court on Saturday, March 15.
Saeed Hassan Essa, 21, of Northbrook Road, Toxteth, was charged with violent disorder.
The ECHO revealed how teenager Ahmed fled his native Somalia to come to the city nine months ago.
His devastated family said he was recently reunited with mother Asiya who left war-torn Mogadishu two years earlier.
Ahmed remained behind in the capital before escaping the east African country.
He arrived in Liverpool last summer to join his family of four sisters and eight brothers.
Source: Liverpool Echo
Inside Lines: How GB's wheelchair wizard climbed brokeback mountain
By Alan Hubbard
Sunday, 24 May 2009
By its very nature disability sport can be both depressing and uplifting. Depressing when you realise what participants might have achieved with bodies that fully operate; uplifting when you encounter tales like that of 26-year-old Abdi Jama, whom we met at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester last week.
Abdi is a devout Muslim who came here from Somalia as a five-year-old and was raised in Toxteth, one of the roughest suburbs of Liverpool. What makes him remarkable is that he has 32 brothers and sisters ? his late father had five wives ? and was a talented goalkeeper for Everton Schoolboys before a freak accident resulting in a fractured spine left him a quadriplegic at 14. Now he has become one of world's best wheelchair basketball players, his shooting skills helping Britain win a bronze medal in the Beijing Paralympics. Yet even more remarkable is his philosophy.
"Breaking my back was the best thing that ever happened to me," he tells us. "I was running around with a bad crowd in Toxteth, and I know I would either be dead or in prison like most of them if I hadn't had that accident. I see it as a blessing in disguise."
He has no doubt he would have become embroiled in the gang culture of guns and knives. Instead he seems the happiest of fellows, content with his lot and just about to embark on a four-month stint in a professional league in Australia with the Perth Wheelcats.
"It was a fluke accident," he explains. "I was sitting on a window sill and there was a curtain over the window which I didn't realise was open. I leaned back, went straight through it and woke up two weeks later to find I was in hospital with a broken spine." He took up basketball as part of his rehab. "I'd hoped to be a professional footballer but these things happen. It's a part of life. Being in a wheelchair has never really seemed to bother me. I have a close family and they are all very supportive."
Abdi's mother and several of his siblings and relatives are in Liverpool ("a whole village of us") but he lives alone in his own apartment. "I made up my mind to look after myself almost from the day I came out of hospital."
He says he can't remember all the names of his brothers and sisters, although one of them, an 11-year-old sister is a promising athlete.
Says the GB coach, Australian Murray Treseder: "Abdi was the key to Britain winning the bronze in Beijing when we beat the USA. He is probably the top shooter in the world, very smart and with a bit of rat-like cunning in his play, a great inspiration to the team." And to sport.
Ear we go again
Not quite so inspirational is another sporting immigrant, the unbeaten heavyweight boxer Derek Chisora, who gave an unpleasant imitation of Mike Tyson when blatantly biting the ear of opponent Paul Butlin on Friday night.
He escaped deserved disqualification as he did it on the blind side of referee Dave Parris who later deducted a point when Chisora swore at Butlin. Unlike Abdi Jama, the British title contender, 25, comes from an affluent African background (his family are landowners in Zimbabwe), went to public school and lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb, which is hardly Toxteth. Del Boy has to be sorted by the Board of Control, and it needs to be more than an ear-bashing.
Source: The Independent on Sunday
What an inspiration,"breaking my back was the best thing that ever happened to me"!!!!!
Somali mum who cheated Liverpool taxpayers of ?18,000 escapes jail sentence
Sep 5 2009
by Gary Stewart, Liverpool Echo
A SOMALI mother who cheated Liverpool taxpayers out of ?18,000 escaped jail because she has five young children.
Anab Hersi, 28, and her husband Muled Jama, 33, of Selwyn Street, Kirkdale, received housing and council tax benefits worth more than ?7,500 between March, 2005, and February, 2007, after they got back together following a separation and did not tell Liverpool council.
The pair admitted failing to notify, and allowing a failure to notify, a change of circumstances, while Hersi admitted receiving a further more than ?11,000 in income support.
Hersi, who spoke through an interpreter, fled Somalia in 2000.
Zia Chauhdry, defending, said: ?This is a young woman of previous good character who has seen and dealt with issues which the rest of us cannot hope to imagine.?
Liverpool crown court heard Hersi?s children are eight, seven, five, three and three months old.
Recorder Michael Chambers, QC, sentenced Jama to three months in prison on two counts of dishonesty yesterday, telling him, despite his employment record, he set a poor example to his community.
He gave Hersi a four- month jail sentence for each of her three offences and suspended it for a year, saying: ?She has been thoroughly dishonest for two years. In my view, she richly deserves to go to prison, but she has five children.?
Source: Liverpool Echo
Alot of the time when i used to get the bus, everytime there was loudmouths, it was Somalians! They are crazy, i remember one time going home from school and the somalis on the bus were getting on my nerves and when i got off the bus and they were still on, i flipped a finger at them so they got off at the next stop to chase me and thought i was being racist to them!
These people need education, they can get it while living in Britain and not their own warzone at least.
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