Earlier this year I set out on a solo trip, and when I mentioned Jamaica as the highlight of my journey, people got very worried.“It’s one of the most dangerous places you could go to”, “A woman can’t go there on her own, that’s just insane”, “If you go, stay at a popular hotel and only travel in groups with other tourists” were some of the reactions I got.There are an estimated 250,000 Somalis living in the UK.
Even so, Jamaica’s notorious reputation lives on and a majority of tourists see the all-inclusive hotels and popular resorts as their only option to visit. To ease my worries I made myself a deal: stay my first night in the tourist hub Montego Bay, at a local guesthouse.
Then if I didn’t feel safe, I would go all in as a real tourist and spend the rest of my time at a resort. The places where I felt the most comfortable and enjoyed myself the most was in the ‘real’ Jamaica, far from the tourist crowds.
In fact it’s so far off the scale that I haven’t been able to include it (click on chart to see more clearly): If we just play with a few imaginary figures: let’s assume that the 250,000 Somali population includes 60,000 men of working age and that of these, 65% (39,000) are each claiming about £20,000 a year in benefits (unemployment, jobseekers’ allowance, housing benefits, child benefits, council tax benefits and so on) for themselves and their families.
If we could bring the unemployment rate for these Somali men down from 65% to the 15% for all black Africans, then another 30,000 Somali men would be in work and we’d be paying around £600m less a year in benefits The problems with the Somali community are not just in the high levels of unemployment.
And never was I in a situation where I felt threatened or unsafe.
There were times when I got fed up with some hustlers.
As a woman I could feel frustrated with the constant male attention.
There’s no escaping catcalls and flirting – frequent, but harmless.
I (mostly) travelled smart – you know, didn’t wander off alone at night or to very remote areas, look lost or insecure, flash valuables or share too much personal information.
But I still walked alone at beaches, along roads and through towns.
In our schools just 33% of Somali students passed five GCSEs, compared with 59% for students from other African communities and 80% for Chinese students.