Denmark: Somali community requesting help against khat abuse

The Somali community in Denmark is so plagued by increased khat abuse that the head of the Somali Network in Denmark and a social worker are asking for a study on its extent.

Problems with escalating khat abuse among both old and young Somalis across the country are now bringing the head of the Somali Network in Denmark, Mohamed Gelle, to ask for help for his abused-plagued countrymen.  He says that it's gradually affecting all age groups among Somalis and is being mixed with alcohol and amphetamines.  It destroys marriages and causes many to quit school or work.  A study is needed to show how extensive khat abuse really is.

He estimates that at least 40% of the 17,000 Somalis who live in Denmark chew khat and that about 15% abuse it.  Mohamed Gelle is working on a project which will prevent khat abuse.  He says that it costs 200-300 kroner a day to cover real abuse of the drug.

Khat chewing is usually done together with others.  There are still khat clubs around the country, but in Copenhagen Somalis meet in private apartments to enjoy the amphetamine like drug.

The capital's largest khat clubs have been closed down by the police in the past 2-3 years.

Anders Pedersen of the ISBEDDEL project in Amager, which particularly aims at Somalis with abuse, asks for more insight into how the khat problem should be fought.  At the same time, he thinks that the police's hard-handed approach to khat users has made it harder to do preventive work in the Somali community.  The traditional chewing clubs were easier to get in contact with.  Additionally, other groups are therefore introduced to khat, now that it's been removed from the pure male universe.  He stresses that there's a large group among the Somalis which be killed by the khat problem.

At the Kirkens Korshær hospice for the homeless in Copenhagen, people are also noticing the khat problem.  Of the 45 residents, 17 are older Somali man with khat abuse.  Mia Omø Lundsgaard says that it's important to see the khat abuse in relation to other problems.

"A large part of the Somali homeless are traumatized.  This, together with other forms of abuse, bring to an increased consumption of khat.  They have certainly taken the khat culture from their homeland, but there it's not necessary a problem," she says.  [Ed: why not?]

Per Andersen of the border police in Padborg tells Berlingske Tidende that it's possible that at least two tons of khat are smuggled into Denmark every day, 700 tons a year.  And that it's hard to stop.

The smugglers are typically Somalis from Denmark or Holland who drive in small delivery vans and police catch just a small amount of the stuff.  It's hard to put in the effort against khat.  They catch the typical smugglers because they are on the lookout for all substances.

Andersen says that it's impossible to stop khat smuggling as long as it's allowed in other EU countries.  Police on the Danish-German border has so far confiscated 3,259kg of khat in 2008.  Three tons were confiscated in 2007.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)

See also: Sweden: Authorities see khat as a Somali problem


Anonymous said...

"They have certainly taken the khat culture from their homeland, but there it's not necessary a problem," she says. [Ed: why not?]" Here's why not: because it aids the government in having a civilian army for carrying out terrorist acts. It's cheaper than having a real army that way, and addiction is a good way to make people dependent upon - and therefore loyal to - the government in a country where there is little hope for a good future, the standard of living is very low, and where the population is almost entriely Muslim and therefore lacking in any sense of nationalism or patriotism. I don't know if the government still dispenses it in Somalia, but I know that they did at one time. When those US Blackhawks were shot down over Mogadishu when we were trying to bring food aid to the Somalis, it was a civilian army of terrorists who were hopped-up on government-supplied khat and using government-supplied anti-aircraft artillery. Watch 'Blackhawk Down' sometime. It's a good movie, and pretty historically accurate. Plus Josh Hartnett was really cute back when he was a gangly kid in that uniform.

Esther said...

Hi Jetabler,

Cynicism aside, this Danish social worker did not mean that it's good for the Somali government, she meant that in Somalia that's what the 'natives' do and therefore there's no problem with it.

Anonymous said...

It IS what they do. It's good for the government, but life is also very hard there. Urban Somalis work like 70 hours a week, and there's a huge pastoral population whose lives are very difficult and physically laborious. The pastoral folks also tend to be more tribal, and not very Muslim by and large. That was the impression I got reading 'Desert Flower' anyway. It's their coffee, except that it's an amphetamine, which causes violent behavior, paranoia, and a far more severe addiction. But I can see why it's not so frowned upon. Cocaine and speed didn't used to be frowned upon in Western society. They helped people live up to our societal ideals until we saw their downsides. The US government dispensed amphetamines to soldiers during WWI, and I know that at least the German Army did too.