CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Two minutes with the Mayor as Sadiq Khan finally comes to Camden to talk about knife crime

Mayor of London speaks at closed meeting in Somali resource centre

23 September, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Sadiq Khan arrives in King’s Cross

MAYOR of London Sadiq Khan shifted the blame onto central government spending as pressure increased for him to be more visible in the wake of the Camden killings.

With campaigners calling for him to visit the communities in Camden Town and Kentish Town affected by the trail of death, the New Journal tracked the Mayor down to a private meeting at the Somali Youth Development Resource Centre, in King’s Cross, on Tuesday evening. On his way out, we were given about two-and-a-half minutes to ask him questions.

Mr Khan said: “My frustration is that for the last three years when I’ve been trying to explain the consequences of the government cuts, it pretended it’s not an issue. I’m pleased, though, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have realised that we need more resources, not just in policing, but in preventative services like youth services, after-school clubs [and] mental health facilities.”

The meeting was held amid concerns that the Somali community has been disproportionately affected – five young men have been killed n two years – by the violence. Mr Khan’s mayoral election rivals accused him of not doing enough earlier in the week.

Shaun Bailey, the Tory candidate, filmed himself visiting Camden in a video in which he said “young people are afraid of where they live”, while Lib Dem candidate Siobhan Benita accused the Mayor of spending too much time on Twitter in a party conference speech.

During his brief interview with the New Journal, Mr Khan added: “What we can’t afford to happen is for people to be scared about leaving their homes, for parents to be worried and staying up until their children return home because they are scared, and that’s what is happening.”

He added: “I’m optimistic – if we were speaking here three years ago about, for example, about moped crime in Camden – a big, big issue when I was first elected. “And with good teamwork we have made progress and I’m also hopeful we will make progress on violent crime, but all of us have a role to play.”

And although he resisted invitations to come to Camden after a double murder in 2017, Mr Khan said that the people he was meeting with this week “he had met on a number of occasions” before.

Several meetings with Somali community leaders and council officials have been held in response to previous killings. Mr Khan is due to meet privately with bereaved Camden parents next month to listen to their experiences, the aftermath and actions needed.

The idea was initiated by Aydarus Ahmed, who is part of Operation Shutdown and who has lost a son and two nephews to fatal stabbings.

Elaine Donnellon, a Camden mother from the campaign group, said: “Campaign group Operation Shutdown are facilitating a private meeting with bereaved families of victims aged under 25 in Camden, over the last decade, who have lost their children to murder, via use of knife, gun and other weapons.

“We hope to gain a greater understanding of the needs of bereaved families and build on any learning to bring about positive change in Camden.”

Yusuf Deerow, chair of the Somali Youth Development Community Centre (SYDRC), in King’s Cross, said: “As a community we are deeply concerned, and although we acknowledge that knife crime has impacted other Londoners, we must uncover why it has disproportionately affected young Somali people particularly in Camden.”

He added: “My message to the Somali community who are in a state of shock or trauma is, please let’s be resilient, patient, cohesive and united. “Let’s establish trust and work together because ultimately the solutions should be a bottom-up approach.”

Abdikadir Ahmed, who manages the youth services at SYDRC, said: “I think any life lost is an unfortunate situation as it’s a young life lost that hasn’t fulfilled potential, whatever ethnicity they are, but it’s been quite disproportionate. You hear stories of parents sending their kids back to Somalia. I don’t know in Camden, but I’ve heard stories across London where parents have taken their kids back to Somalia to escape youth violence. Living in a democracy like Britain, you don’t expect to be burying children.”

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