Re: Banning Khat
As a Chairman of London Somali Youth Forum I would like to take the opportunity to encourage the Home Secretary, Theresa May to continue with her plans to ban Khat in the United Kingdom. Over the past five years as a youth activists and a Local Government civil servant, I have witnessed the direct and unintended consequences of Khat use in the United Kingdom.
In a recent article, Professor David Nutt, chair of the Independent Scientific Commitee on Drugs has commented on the banning of Khat and has accepted the relative harms associated with Khat use, following investigation from expert advisors.
Although I respect the views of scientist, I would like to bring their attention to the fact that any drug that is associated with low/high level of harm has devastating consequence for our Somali community and youths. It may be low level harm to the scientist, however, the community, welfare departments, health agencies and the third sector have to pick up the pieces and respond to impacts of Khat use on family life, economy and wellbeing of our citizens.
I would like to encourage the Home Secretary and the Coalition Government not to bow down to any pressure from, what Cyril Connolly (renown reformist) once called The Enemies of Promise. For our community, youths and Somali Professionals, this is issue is fight against outdated cultural ideology, ignorance, poverty of aspirations, a struggle to unlock the potential opportunities of over community so that they can take their rightful position in our economy as citizens.
I make my conclusion from our direct involvement and experience with our communities/youths and we feel the Coalition Government should continue with its plans to ban Khat on the following grounds:
Impact on family life:
It is widely accepted that the issue of Khat has indirectly caused family breakdowns in Somali families and this historical lack of stable home coupled with absence fathers (leadership) means that a young Somali youth growing up in London is becoming ever harder, forcing a majority to turn to khat use as a tool for escapism, inevitability impacting on their life chances to compete and progress in life. As a Forum, we genuinely subscribe to the aims and notion or policies of Every Child Matters. As a result, we would fully support a ban on the use and availability of Khat, which is destroying the life chances of our children, cementing their place in a life of misery and wasted human capital for generations.
I would like to take the opportunity to underline the impact Khat use is having on Somali youths in London. It is arguable that the issue was just isolated to older Somali men who regularly chewed the substance. However, that trend has now changed where young Somali now form a growing and alarming number of Khat users, affecting their prospects, health and stability at home. As a youth activist and a strong campaigner for the progress of our youths, I find it astonishing that the issue is now trickling down to our first/second generation Somali youths, some languishing in mental health institutions and others wasted on the wilderness of benefit dependency with no aspiration for progress. As I pass through outside Khat stations in around London, and I speak to young people, I am witnessing the collective deteriation of our youths, which will ultimately result in a lost generation.
Community Integration/cohesion and Economic Empowerment
As we strive to promote tolerance, integration and progress for our youths, we, as a Forum, feel the issue of Khat availability and use is hampering our efforts to work for a common good so that our youths that have been affected by the issue take appropriate steps to be part of our society as productive citizens. However, previous subsequent delays, debates and lack of political will to tackle this issue effectively mean our work is even harder. The issue further defeats the objectives of recent Government Welfare Reforms. For example, the Work Programme from Department for Work and Pensions require people on benefits to make serious steps and efforts in finding work and employment training. However, the experience I have seen show that the readily availability of khat is having the opposite effect on the success of such programmes because the intended target group are not in a position to wake up for such employment training/work due to the heavy use of Khat the nights before.
In many ways, I sense this is an already transformative Coalition Government that is bold and I would like to inform the Government that Somali youths, community/mothers and professionals are fully behind such ban, because this about unlocking their potential as citizens, removing barriers to progress. The Community and the Nation expects.
Mohamed Ibrahim: Chair of London Somali Youth Forum
T: 0207 2842373