This is Local London
Monday, April 29, 2013
By Ruth Halkon,
Justine Greening with Mathew Offord MP, Abubakar Ali and Mohamed Ali.
The International Development Secretary has visited Mill Hill to meet with members of Barnet’s Somali community ahead of a major international conference on Somalia next month.
Justine Greening and MP for Hendon Matthew Offord met members of Somali non-profit organisation BritSom at the Eversfield Centre on Friday to hear their views on how the British Government could help make Somalia a more peaceful, prosperous and safer place.
She said: “British Somalis across the UK have tremendous links back to family, friends and businesses in Somalia. According to figures from the World Bank, they send remittances of $2bn to the country each year.
“Their time, energy and support is vital to help Somalia recover from two decades of conflict. I’m here because I want to hear people’s views on that recovery and understand more about the challenges facing Somalia."
She praised the work of BritSom, calling it a “shining light” and an example to other diasporas for its work in teaching English to children and young mothers, offering advocacy, counselling and advice and helping to alter negative perceptions of Britain’s Somali community.
She said: “The people themselves will be the greatest asset Somalia has.”
Ms Greening said the UK had a “real role to play in helping Somalia move forward,” adding the British Government had committed £80million this year to help rebuild the Somali government, to boost its economy by creating 45,000 jobs, to provide healthcare and restore basic services.
She asked members of the audience at the centre in Eversfield Lane, many of whom had fled Somalia during the years of conflict, for their opinion on how the money should be spent.
She then heard their views on the need for better education in Somalia, better care for people with special needs and for the Somali people themselves to return and use their expertise to help rebuild the country.
Mr Offord also praised BritSom for its work in combating the negative perceptions some Barnet residents had of Barnet’s “reasonably sized” Somali community and giving members of the Somali community an “alternative aspiration”.
He said: “BritSom is the big society in action. It does things the council and Government cannot do. It is the grass roots coming together to improve lives, give something back and help the community with its problems.
“BritSom works with everyone who wants to use its services, not just the Somali community.”
Co-founder of BritSom Mohammed Ali said how pleased he and the other BritSom members were Justine Greening had come to visit them.
He said: “It is brilliant she is interested in Somalia, it is a big thing that we have met face to face to discuss the needs of Somalia and help promote the country in the long term.
“We don’t want to feel invisible; we work with people to help them be a true part of British society.”
Prime Minister David Cameron and Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will co-host the London Somalia Conference on May 7. The conference will set out how to help Somalia's new Government rebuild their country after two decades of conflict.
Ms Greening said: “Together at the national conference we can refocus attention on the plight of Somalis and bring change for the better.”