CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Somali families: We are living in fear in wake of knife murders

MP Keir Starmer says he is 'very worried' by police cuts

02 March, 2018 — By William McLennan

More than 200 people at a community meeting in the wake of the Camden murders

CAMDEN’S Somali community have called for changes to education and policing as they struggle to come to terms with the loss of two young men stabbed to death in a series of linked knife attacks.

About 200 people packed Kentish Town Community Centre on Friday night to voice their fears following the deaths of 17-year-old Abdikarim Hassan and Saqid Aadam, 20.

The parents of the two victims sat at the front of the meeting, which was addressed by Camden police chief Nicholas Davies, MP Keir Starmer and council leader Georgia Gould.

The deaths have brought to the surface deep-seated concerns over social exclusion, a lack of opportunities and barriers to accessing public services, including the police.

Both victims are children of the Somali community, whose parents came to London in search of a safe place to raise a family. Mr Aadam was the third member of his family to die on the streets of Camden, following the death of his brother, Mohamed, in September last year and the murder of his cousin, Mohamed Abdullahi, in 2013.

Aydarus Ahmed, father of Mr Abdullahi, told Friday’s meeting: “What happened on Tuesday night is so very tragic and traumatic for all of us. Not only as a family, but as a whole community. We are living in fear. Worrying that our loved ones, if they step out our door, will they come back safely?”

One mother told the meeting: “We came here to be safe. We are thinking we have nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. That’s not right.” Another said: “Where the kids were killed it’s only yards away from your [police] stations. How could you not even save one of them? Why didn’t you know about it?”

Mohamed Farah, from Chalk Farm, is establishing a Somali parents group in an attempt to identify institutional failings, after witnessing the unfocused anger at Friday’s meeting, called to an abrupt halt as tempers flared.

“There is a communication barrier, we know that. But as long as we arrange ourselves and we know where we need support, we can then point the finger and say why this is happening because of a lack of this, or that,” he said.

One of the major areas of concern was the disproportionately high level of school exclusions of Somali boys, who, he said, were then likely to get caught up in drug dealing.

“If you go to Camden Lock, you see the majority of youth standing there are Somali. It’s a shame to say it, but that’s the reality. Now the question is: how can we get a solution for that,” he added.

Yusuf Deerow, chair of Somali Youth Development Resource Council and a serving police officer, called for action from the grassroots level.

He told the meeting: “We have to do something about it. That is collective. Every walk of life. If you want positivity, you have to come together. I’m not going to tell you to be a police officer, but what I would tell you is: become part of the decision-makers in this country. The world is your oyster.”

On Monday, Met police commissioner Cressida Dick met community leaders to listen directly to their fears.

Chief Supt Davies, the borough commander, said: “This is a very unusual set of circumstances that you don’t see every day. She just really wants to be part of it and listen to what people want to say. There is no single agency that is going to solve knife crime, she recognises that.”

Cllr Gould said: “All of us need to take responsibility for this. I need to, as leader of Camden Council. The leadership of our city and country, absolutely. We need to be asking ourselves what more can we be doing because the work that we are doing, the investment we are putting into youth services, this is still happening.”

Mr Starmer said: “I have been very worried about police cuts over many years now. We are going to have to look at that. “The council has had cuts as well. They have preserved everything they can for youth services, but there have been cuts.”

– Isaiah Popoola has been charged with two counts of murder, one of grievous bodily harm and one of attempted grievous bodily harm. The 18-year-old of Grafton Way, Fitzrovia, will stand trial in May.

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