Surrey gang shootings show Somali youth need better support, says outreach worker

The head of a society that works with Somali refugees wants better gang prevention programs for youth, as Surrey, B.C. grapples with 23 shootings in two months.

Young refugees have little support for trauma, says head of Umoja Operation Compassion Society of BC

The Umoja Operation Compassion Society of BC helps young African refugees to adjust to life in Canada - and its executive director says more needs to be done to prevent young people getting involved with gangs. (umojaoperation.ca/)

The head of a Surrey, B.C.-based organization that works with Somali immigrants and refugees wants better gang prevention programs for youth, as the community grapples with 23 shootings in two months.

RCMP have said the shootings are connected to a turf war between rival Somali and South Asian gangs.

"It's a big problem generally in the youth. If there are no youth programs the Somalis won't be there," Amos Kambere, Executive Director of the Umoja Operation Compassion Society of BC, told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Huge culture shock

Kambere said many of the Somalis who come to Canada have suffered violence in refugee camps and experience a huge culture shock when they arrive.

"These people are coming with issues of trauma, issues of mental health and when they come here they are overwhelmed."

'What can they do?'

Kambere would like to see programs that address those mental health issues as well as substance abuse, but he believes the key to keeping youth away from gangs is giving them something else to do.

Police investigate a drive-by shooting in Surrey, B.C. There have been 23 shootings in Surrey and Delta in the past two months. (Shane McKichan)

"They're idle, they have nothing to do, they drop out of school because of the little academics they come here with, the schools don't support them.

"They single them out as people who are not smart … What can they do? They end up in gangs. That's my opinion," he said.

Kambere said programs aren't just needed within the Somali community, but for all at-risk youth.

Earlier this week, B.C. premier Christy Clark announced a one-time contribution of $270,000 to the RCMP's Surrey Wraparound (Wrap) program — which helps at-risk youth — something she said will cut the waiting list in half.

To hear the full interview with Amos Kambere, listen to the audio labelled: Keeping Somali youth out of gangs.

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