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Slaying of young Somali is a tragic story of our times

PUBLISHED: 15:01 10 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:08 07 September 2010

THE slaying of a young Somali in Camden Town has shone a light on the particular problems that affect this community in the borough of Camden and wider afield. Most young Somalis are in this country not because of social or economic reasons, but because t

THE slaying of a young Somali in Camden Town has shone a light on the particular problems that affect this community in the borough of Camden and wider afield.

Most young Somalis are in this country not because of social or economic reasons, but because their families fled one of the most bloody and prolonged civil wars Africa has known. For most of the 1990s, Somalia was the most lawless and dangerous places on earth, and easily the most tragic.

Many thousands of its young men died in battle, many thousands more, men, women and children, from the effects of famine and diseas. At times the country was virtually cut off from the rest of the world.

Even the all-mighty Americans fled with their tails between their legs and at one stage, every foreign embassy and every aid agency had abandoned their operations in the stricken country as rival tribes fought a furious war.

In this dangerous vacuum, entire clans at the bottom of the feeding chain were virtually wiped out, their plight ignored by power-hungry militias who left them to starve while entire shiploads of food and medical aid remained stacked up in heavily-guarded warehouses.

It was against this turbulent and tragic background that some half a million people fled the country to wherever they could, many of them eventually reaching the safe haven of the UK. It is probably true to say that many of these families still regard themselves as temporary refugees and long for the day when they can return to their homeland. As things stand, that day seems a long way off. Somalia is still a dangerous place and old enmities die hard when blood has been shed in such copious quantities.

The sense of displacement and rootlessness is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the isolation felt by Somali families living in London, and while Britain has opened its doors to them, there has been no real structured mechanism to deal with the psychological impact of the unspeakable horrors these noble people have endured.

Predictably there have been calls for more funding for youth organisations and this is to be supported, but it is difficult to see how any amount of good intentions could have prevented the death of young Sharmaarke Hassan.

The picture released by police shows him as a clean cut kid, snappily dressed in suit and tie. It's an image that would make any parent proud, but at the time it was taken, 17-year-old Sharmaarke and his associates were already well-known to the authorities. Like the people responsible for his death, he was already operating on the fringes of society.

Young Sharmaarke's death is a tragic story of our times, made all the more shocking and disturbing when set alongside another 15 teenage deaths from violent attacks on the streets of London since the start of the year.


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