Hundreds of British teenagers are being shipped by their parents to parts of East Africa to avoid the rising knife crime in the United Kingdom that has claimed more than 100 lives this year alone, reports say.
Representatives of the small Somali community in London told local media that hundreds of children have been flown to various African nations because of rising concerns over drug gangs and county lines – the criminal networks that use children to transport drugs out of the cities.
The children have been sent to Somalia, Somaliland, and Kenya.
“Sending them away has become the only way they can be safe,” Rakhia Ismail, the new mayor of Islington told the Observer earlier this year. “This issue of safety has been repeatedly raised by the community but nobody has listened. So many children have gone abroad.”
According to Rise Projects, which works with young British Somalis in north London, of the 100 people fatally stabbed in the U.K. this year, about 8 percent were of Somali heritage, the BBC reported.
Ismail – a mother of four who came to London from Somalia as a refugee – told the BBC that there are some areas in her city that are unsafe for young people.
“Does the parent wait for her child to be killed? Or does the parent take a decision – quite a drastic decision – to take him all the way back to wherever that child is from originally?” she said.
The decisions by these families come as debate heats up over the causes of and potential solutions of Britain’s knife crime epidemic.
Knife crime in England and Wales rose to record levels in 2017-18. This year alone, there has been one fatal stabbing every 1.45 days, the BBC reported earlier this month.
Those killed in 2019 range in age from 14-year-old Jaden Moodie, who was stabbed in east London in January, to 80-year-old Barbara Heywood, who was attached at her home in Bolton in March.
Yusuf, a teenager who was born and raised in London but moved to Kenya after a close friend was stabbed to death, told the BBC that it was tough “just seeing people being dropped every other day, being stabbed.”
“London’s not the place to be for a teenager,” he added.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travel to Somalia and Kenya amid heightened threats of terrorism and kidnappings.
However, some parents are desperate to keep their children away from the knife violence in the U.K.
“This is not something they’ve encountered before,” Dr. Fatumo Abdi – a mother of Somali origin – told the BBC. “But we know living here in Britain, the context is Britain. This is a British problem and it’s a problem that we’ve fallen into. It’s not the answer but there are desperate parents.”