One thing I have learned as a child refugee and FGM survivor is that there are always evil people.
By Nimco Ali
Sir Mo Farah and I have a lot in common. We were both born in Somaliland. And we both lost half of our family members during The Isaaq genocide. But unlike Mo, who has just revealed that his real name is Hussein, I was holding my mum’s hand when I landed safely back in the UK. Sadly this is not the story for Sir Mo. He has told the BBC that he was trafficked into the UK on the passport of someone else, something I know happened to countless young Somalis in the late 80s and the early 90s.
Many of those trafficked ended up with family members who were waiting for them here. But others like Mo ended up being taken advantage of. One thing I have learned as a child refugee and FGM survivor is that there are always evil people. And they know the legal loopholes to help those trying to get away with human rights violations. When parents would have done anything to get their kids to safety, traffickers saw an opportunity to make money.
I don’t often talk about the struggles I saw coming back to the UK as a refugee. Like Mo, some of the people who came back with us on our flight were not who they said they were. Growing up I saw countless stories like Mo’s. As one of the only people to speak Somali and English in my primary school, I remember having to translate for traumatized children.
Many of them were living under fake names they did not answer to because they did not understand what was going on. Sadly, some were staying with people who were not as loving as they thought they should be.
Coming to the UK with a different identity, it meant they lost not just who they were, but who their children would be. The mental gymnastics you have to do to work out who is related to who at a family event would shock you, but it’s nothing new to me. I do, though, see the confusion on the faces of kids who have no idea what their parents went through to get here.
In telling his story Mo has reminded us that today there are more people enslaved and trafficked than ever.
To address this crisis, we need kindness. That means not seeking to punish a man who has been through more than any of us could imagine. I hope Mo (Hussein) knows he is still our 2012 hero and that his knighthood stands, no matter what. Mo’s story is the story of many of those of us who have called this country, and this city, home for years.
In other news…
The race is on again to find another leader for the Tories. Not another one, I know you’re thinking, but maybe the third time will be the charm.
I was and am a supporter of Boris Johnson but due to Covid and certain members of his Cabinet being more interested in taking pictures than delivering, little of what I and many others had hoped could be done was.
If the Conservative Party wants to win the next election it needs to get behind Tom Tugendhat, who will assemble a Cabinet that will not just be diverse but that will also deliver. We need someone who will ensure leadership in foreign affairs, keep our commitment to addressing climate change and give the women and equalities office a proper mandate.
Since Boris resigned I have been talking fantasy Cabinet with my neighbor, Keith. He’s a musician who does not look a day over 40 (although he’s 70) and he wants the lean to the populist Right to end and for this country to have some stability.
The person to deliver that, in my opinion, is Tugendhat. He may not have served in government, but he risked his life to serve this country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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