Elderly Somali refugee fears worst after Sasca charity funding is cut

  • Manchester City Council cut funds to Somali refugee centre after decade of operation
  • Adde Omar, 75, has been relying on the centre since his arrival in Manchester in 2011
  • Sasca's uncertain future could leave many who need its services with nowhere to turn

There are more people who have been displaced today than after World War II.

In reports released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there is one nation that appears with deafening consistency: Somalia.

More than half of all refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The reports reveals that 1.1 million Somalis fled the war-torn nation in 2015.

In Manchester, Somali Adult Social Care Agency (SASCA) has been helping those people for more than a decade, but were told in December by the city council they would no longer receiving funding.

Adde Omar, 75, escaped from Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, in November 2010 and arrived in Manchester January the following year.

Sat in Sasca’s cramped office in Moss Side, he tells me with the few words he knows, that he does not speak “good English”. It is obvious that this was a roadblock he had stumbled on before.

His reserved demeanour quickly changed when he discovered I was Italian, as he also spoke Italian.

“I had to leave to save myself, to have peace,” he said.

There is war at home. You cannot live. Each day waking up is a risk, so we came here for peace, for our safety. We came to save my life and the life of my family.

Around Moss Side, Mr Omar is well known as he spends most of his time at the Sasca office.

He said: “They have done so much for me. They work four days a week, in those four days everyone comes here for the same guidance I received. Women, men, the young and the old.

“Every day I am here. I have problems at home with the gas, water and electric. I am overwhelmed with things I do not understand.

“I am like a volunteer, because I am always here” he quips.

Arriving in a new country with new a new language, customs, and laws comes with a host of problems.

When Mr Omar arrived with his family, he was granted an indefinite leave to remain which expired after five years.

The Home Office is normally required to respond within six months of an application for permanent residency (PR), Sasca tells me.

However, Mr Omar did not receive an update for mre than six months. Sasca filed documents through an attorney to notify the Home Office that they had kept Omar’s documents beyond the legal limit.

Sasca also contacted Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell in their bid to get Omar’s PR expedited.

It took 10 months after Sasca contacted the Home Officeon Mr Omar’s case for him to receive his PR, over one-and-a-half years after the process began.

When Mr Omar first arrived in Manchester he did not formally declare his wife had come with him, as he was unaware of the procedure and required paperwork.

After declaring that his wife lived with them, the tax credits he and his children received during this period were considered void, and £8,500 was demanded from him.

He turned to Sasca for help. Three months, and many exchanged emails and documents later, Mr Omar was told he was only to pay a £500 fine and his life here could continue still.

He said: “Without Sasca there is no survival. They do everything for everyone. Without Sasca we cannot escape the war.”

Sasca has actively helped Omar in his pursuit for what he tells me  is the “perfect home”. Each week they have searched together for a home for him and his family, making sure the conditions of the house were acceptable for Omar’s health.

He reflects on the life he has been afforded in Manchester, a stark contrast with the bleak landscape he faced back in Somalia.

When Mr Omar first came to England, he brought with him great pain – both physical and emotional. His physical pain was relieved by an operation on his knee injured while running for his life in Mogadishu. Something he knows he would not have been able to do in Somalia.

He said: “My life in Manchester is great for me and for my family. If Sasca closes, we cannot go forward. All of us who need Sasca will be lost.

“I want to thank the English people that have allowed us to survive and flourish here. The people who allow my children to have an education.”

Mr Omar’s praise for Sasca is unrelenting: “I always tell people that they must come to Sasca. Sasca will solve all of your problems.

“They help me communicate. They give me and so many others a voice. Without them we have no hope.”