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'We Need Help' Say Somali Community
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Peace Talks

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Editorial & Opinions

- The EU Should recognize Somaliland and Somalia as two separate countries

- Turning Assets into Usable Capital

- Educational Programme

- Celebrating 1st July In A New Light: A Somalilander’s Perspective
- Do You Have To Show Your Underwear?

London, June 30, 2004 (Ic SouthLondon) – Elderly and disabled members of Greenwich's Somali community who feel they are being treated as second-class citizens are set to present a petition to the council.

At a recent meeting at the Somali Community Centre, in the Macbean Centre, Woolwich, many described their loneliness and isolation and the lack of support they feel they get from social services. Yassin Ismail, from the centre, said it was a very emotional meeting.

He said: "There was a lot of frustration as many of the most vulnerable people are not getting any services or help and the council are refusing to speak to us about our problems."

He said only a tiny few received home support services and there were woefully few day centers or community centers they could attend.

Mr. Ismail, 39, pointed out the Somali community was now the second-largest group of refugees in the borough. He said many had come because of historic ties because North Somalia was a former British colony and Somali sailors began settling in the UK before the First World War.

Since the recent civil war in Somalia, asylum seekers have arrived to join their relatives, and he estimates there are now between 10,000 and 15,000 Somalis living in the borough.
But the community, almost entirely Muslim, has experienced hard times.

Mr Ismail said there was around 98 per cent unemployment among adults, although some had set up their own small businesses, such as cafes and shops. The community has also set up volunteer-run support networks including a befriending group.

Mr Ismail said: "We just want the council to come and talk to us."
A council spokesman said: "We provide services to ensure that the different cultural needs of all sections of the local community are met."

He pointed out people had to meet eligibility criteria for a service and services had to be provided within financial restraints.
He said the council supported a Somali lunch club for around 20 people two days a week at an annual cost of £8,700 and it had given a £5,000 grant for the befriending service.

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