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Urban Life - Darcus Howe On Desperate Somalis In Plumstead

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Urban Life - Darcus Howe On Desperate ‎Somalis In Plumstead


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London , UK , November 28, 2005 (The New Statesman) – Thousands of Somali youths are roaming our streets in desperation, writes Darcus Howe

I was sitting in the BBC’s Radio London studio on Marylebone High Street for a phone-in programme, when a caller complained about my portrayal of the Somali community in Plumstead, south London , in a documentary on Channel 4 last year. He and his friends from Somalia felt I was guilty of speaking ill about their community with no reasonable cause.

I replied that it is my responsibility to hold a mirror to the communities to which I belong so that we may see ourselves, good, bad and indifferent. At the same time we need to tell others about issues among us as we seek understanding and assistance in tackling our problems. He grumbled about negative reporting and said little else.

In fact, in that documentary I was looking at the issue of conflict between Somalis and West Indians, relatively powerless groups in this part of south London . I described Plumstead as a place stuck in time, into which thousands of Somali refugees have been thrown to compete with West Indians for scraps of council housing and other social benefits.

I filmed a young West Indian boy who had been beaten close to death by a group of Somali youths, and an old West Indian woman bombarded with every type of missile by another group of Somali youths. A social worker told us that among the Somalis were the most traumatized young people she had ever encountered, and that after listening to their life stories she wept and suffered nightmares.

I concluded by intimating that we were sitting on a time bomb. So I was not all that surprised when I read that a group of young Somalis from Plumstead had been detained as part of the police investigation into the robbery at the travel agency in Bradford in which a young policewoman was shot dead.

There are thousands of badly damaged Somali youths roaming our streets in desperation, and disposed to violence because it is the only life they have known. We need an immense effort from the Mayor of London and the local Greenwich Council to save them from disaster.

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