Afghans in London: A wasted resource?

September 21 2010

Teaching at the Deptford Albany, home of the Ferdowsi school.

Today was my second visit to see Dr Nasimi, who runs the Afghan and Central Asian Association in New Cross Gate. He’s an interesting individual, he arrived in the UK in the 90s, gained his doctorate in politics and now dedicates his time to a community group for imigrant Afghans – many of whom are refugees and some of whom have entered the country illegally.

Dr Nasimi.

The Association helps Afghans living in the UK with translation services and legal advice, as well as helping to create a positive community in a diaspora which is largely ignored and subject to racial stereotyping. On Saturdays, Dr Nasimi runs a supplementary school for child and adult learning from the Deptford Albany centre. He employs a team of volunteers who help with English lessons and homework. Arguably the most important work done at the centre is helping some of the kids who’ve been through hell – dragged around Europe smuggled in the back of lorries and placed in schools where they don’t  speak the language – to feel at home. One of his students won a place at university this year, all of them were incredibly lively and, well, enjoying being children when I dropped in a few weeks ago.

Dr Nasimi has been developing some interseting views recently which I’ll be asking him about and getting on film at some point in the future. He’s just got back from a long visit to see family in Afghanistan – and was robbed of $2000 in Uzbekistan, but that’s a different story – and feels that it’s time for Afghan’s living in the UK to start helping with the reconstruction strategy for their country.

Back at the start of the decade long occupation, he says, he felt Afghans living in Europe were being consulted about how the NATO-led occupation should proceed. As time has gone on, though, they’ve been increasingly marginalised. This, he thinks, is a mistake. The ties they have with friends and family, especially in the North, could be  invaluable in overcoming prejudices against Western interference in the country. More importantly, he says, they could help make sure that all the billions of dollars of aid money flowing into the country is put to better use than propping up drug cartels and nepotistic, ethically segregated regimes.

It’s a fascinating idea. There are a good couple of hundred thousand Afghans living in the UK. It seems odd that they have no say in the way our country behaves while inside theres.

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