Tide of hatred engulfs Somali refugees

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The Independent Online

Twelve-year-old Abdul Hamza had only gone to the local park to listen to bands playing at the annual music festival.

Twelve-year-old Abdul Hamza had only gone to the local park to listen to bands playing at the annual music festival.

So his family find it difficult to understand why five black teenagers chased the Somali boy from the park and repeatedly stabbed him. As he lay bleeding to death on a pavement yards from his home, Adbul's killers calmly headed back to the festival, melting into the crowds.

No one knows why the innocent 12-year-old was stabbed to death in broad daylight just over a week ago in Islington, north London. But it is one of an increasing number of attacks on Somali refugees who, having fled war and violence in their own country, are rapidly emerging as the most victimised community in Britain.

The last two years have seen at least five murders, while figures compiled by a leading race campaign group show that, out of 480 families affected by racial incidents since April last year, 104 were from Somalia.

They include three killings and two assaults which were so serious the victims required hospital treatment.

Eighteen-year-old Abdul Osman was stabbed to death near Southgate Tube station, north London, last year while he was having lunch with friends. In another attack, a Somali student was kicked to death in Harrow.

According to the Refugee Council, more than 15,000 Somali refugees have come to Britain since the outbreak of war in 1988. Many are concentrated in the deprived east London borough of Tower Hamlets with communities in Sheffield, Ealing, and Brighton.

According to Suresh Grover, director of the Southall Monitoring Group, which compiled the figures on racial attacks, Somalis are vulnerable because they are given poor quality housing in violent areas.

"They suffer a lot of racial harassment," he said.

"Somalis are seen as easy targets because they don't have the support groups that other communities have. It is a growing problem. They are treated in the worst way where accommodation is concerned.

"Most Somali families are also single parents with a woman at the head of the family, with high unemployment."

In the case of Abdul Hamza, his father died before reaching Britain and he had been living with his grandparents and siblings since 1996.

At Islington Somali Community Centre, 68-year-old Ali Osman is reporting yet another attack on him.

Last year, Mr Osman was punched and then thrown from a bus by a gang of boys. Now he is so scared about arson attacks he keeps a bucket of water by his front door.

The fear of Mohammed Osman, who runs the centre, is that young Somalis will carry out revenge attacks.

"We are very shocked and angry about Adbul's killing but we have been telling young people not to take matters into their own hands," he said.

"The Somali community is only starting to understand racism. They are a very independent and strong but racism is now a fact of life. The children are growing up and what we are worried about is them getting involved in revenge attacks. They live on estates and are influenced by other people."

* The Abdul Hamza incident room can be contacted on 020-8-2477876. Crimestoppers are on 0800-555111.