Monday, January 07, 2013
British spying agencies, MI5 in particular, are accused of putting pressure on British Somalis to spy on their own community in the UK, local media reported.
There is growing anger among many of Britain’s 400,000 Somalis about how they treated at Britain’s ports, many of them complaining that they are being pressured to spy on their fellows with Somali nationalities, the Independent reported.
Somali elders in London held a gathering before Christmas to discuss the issue of coercive spying, which many young Somalis are depressingly familiar with, said Mohammed Elmi, the head of Somali Diaspora UK.
“Out of the 33 boroughs represented, 17 said they had community members who felt pressured to spy,” Elmi stated.
“The community is very keen to cooperate with the UK government and security. What is unacceptable is any form of coercion or pressure,” he said.
Growing concerns about such tactics being used by the British spying apparatus were first revealed by the Independent in 2009, when it said in a report that security services had threatened five east African Muslim men with sanctions unless they accepted to work for them as informant.
“Three of the five were approached after returning from family holidays. One of the men, Mahdi Hashi, had his citizenship revoked late last year by the Home Office and was suddenly rendered from a jail in Djibouti to the United States - an incident which has caused consternation among many British Somalis,” according to the report.
Such stories of coercion may backfire on the intelligence-gathering community, the report says.
Jamal Osman, a British filmmaker from Somalia who has won awards for his reports from his war-torn homeland, says he has often been approached by security officials at airports.
He recalls that Somalis are regularly threatened with having their passports taken away if they don’t co-operate - something he believes works against the intelligence community because it will dissuade Somalis from coming forward when they do have information.
“When they say, ‘We gave this to you, we can take it away from you whenever we want,’ it sends a terrible signal. It shows Somalis they’ll never be part of the nation. You might have been born here, you might have been brought up here, but we can take it all away from you,” Osman said.