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Government calls for action on khat use

Government calls for action on khat use

Published: 08 Mar 2010 13:28 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Mar 2010 13:28 GMT+01:00

The Swedish government has announced a tougher approach to the threat posed by the use of the mildly intoxicating drug khat on the state of public health.

Integration minister Nyamko Sabuni said on Monday that the fight against khat, a herbal drug popular with the Swedish-Somali population, must be intensified, reports Dagens Nyheter (DN).

"Khat abuse causes a lot of suffering. It leads to unemployment and counters the integration of many Swedish-Somalis into Swedish society," said Nyamko Sabuni to the newspaper.

The Local reported back in May 2008 on the widespread use of khat, which was outlawed in Sweden in 1989. The report also revealed that prohibition is not strictly reinforced and that police turn a blind eye to the drug which can be found sold openly in areas where immigrants from the Horn of Africa live, such as the western Stockholm suburb of Tensta.

Johnny Lindh at Tensta-Rinkeby police appeared to confirm the view in an interview with DN on Monday.

"The customs plug away on their watch, but within the police and among national politicians no one cares. The problem is within a small ethnic group which lives outside of mainstream society, and as long as abuse does not spread to your average Swede then those in power are obviously not interested," he told the newspaper.

Sabuni rejected accusations of racism but said that if the situation was true, it was "unacceptable" and that much more can be done.

The minister also expressed concern that funds from the sale of khat could be finding their way into the hands of terror groups such al-Shabab.

"It is the first time that I have heard about this (the connection to al-Shabab). This is very serious if revenues from drug smuggling go to terror groups. I am presuming that the security police are investigating the issue," Sabuni told the newspaper.

The Local spoke to Shane Quinn, one of Sweden's leading Somalia experts and he told of the importance of the drug to the everyday life of many Somalis.

"It is the only thing that runs on time in Somalia," he said adding, "it is a very serious problem, especially for the women who then have to take responsibility for all work and household chores as their men are incapacitated."

Shane Quinn added that the Somali diaspora in Sweden, which he says numbers some 25,000, are becoming recognised as more important to engage with in the struggle to bring order to the war-torn nation.

"Politicians have hitherto shown a blind eye, but movement is starting within development aid circles," he said, while also expressing doubts that khat makes it any harder for the already sidelined community to integrate.

"It won't make it any easier, but they are already faced with often insurmountable obstacles," he said.

While khat is classed as a narcotic in Sweden, large amounts must be involved for any stiff penalties to be incurred. In the Netherlands and the UK the drug is legal, with London and Amsterdam known to be the drug's points of entry into the EU.

"I promise to take this up with my British and Dutch colleagues," Nyamko Sabuni said.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:21 March 8, 2010 by G_man469
its too importamt stop khat my mother and my father divorsed khat so iam so happy to announced khat to drug and i god will bless you swedish goverment many somlia live in swedish are eating khat and i say all sweish somali to stand up how to stop khat byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
16:39 March 8, 2010 by G Kin
Oh G_man469

Did you take kaht before writing this post!.

Just kidding.

How come England and the Netherlands haven't classed khat as illigal?. Is it really that a strong drug?.
17:02 March 8, 2010 by calebian22
Sounds alot like betel nut from Taiwan, an "opiate for the masses."
17:50 March 8, 2010 by Aceblack
G Kin: Nah, it's an even "weaker" drug then Marijuana...
18:12 March 8, 2010 by Audrian
I have travelled and worked for some years in region that khat is commonly consumed. None of the arguments make sense. If khat is causing unemployment we are suggestng that the cause of recession is khat conumption. In eastern Ethiopia farmers eat khat but work very hard beginning sun rise to sun set during the agriculturaly busy seasons.

If the Somali people in Sweden stope consuming khat will they get jobs. I do not think so. On the other if they stop eating khat, some of them might turn to violence from the frustration of being unemployed. khat is often ate in groups and keps the group calm, settled and friendly. It is as habit forming as tea or koffee are and nothing more. Drinking liquor, whose habit is almost impossible to break, is far worse. It is enough to see how the youth in Sweden behave in the weekends.

For heaven sake leave those who consume khat continue to conume it. Creminalization of khat does prevent its use. Look at the laughable drug policy of the US. Those who benefit from drug policy in that country are the bureaucrats who are enployed to enforce the futile drug policy.
19:24 March 8, 2010 by Rahelli
Sweden are doing exceelent job.Khat is a very bad drug it makes lazey in sweden many somalia dont work because of khat i dont understand many immgrant non of somalia are working and living nice with out a problem why not somalia sweden is a very good pease full countery bravo swedeish
20:04 March 8, 2010 by Renfeh Hguh
Sounds like a drug that the majority of the Swedish population has been taking since the introduction of "social democracy".
21:17 March 8, 2010 by G Kin
@Rahelli

You write:

" many somalia dont work because of khat ".

Did you think before making such a strong sweeping conclusion?. I do not think that khat is that strong a drug and perhaps the only reason you are focusing on its effects on somalians is because its more common among them.

Don't forget that people taking drugs usually have an under laying problem. So Somalians aren't going to come out of the woods simply because khat has outlawed khat. Indeed they risk being further victimised!.

Immigrants have problems in sweden but I think one of the reasons somalis are worst hit is because they stay so much within their circles. Alone you either go to heaven alone or to hell alone!. You know which one is easy.

I am african and I have lived in sweden for over five years. I HAVE ALMOST NEVER INTERACTED WITH A SOMALIAN unlike other africans. Perhaps I should uniquely go out for a somalian girl!.
21:24 March 8, 2010 by sissygirl
Damn! The govt won't let people get high on anything!
09:32 March 9, 2010 by yahan
Event if the smelling feet will be a sort of addiction (I know people who are addicted to that), guess what!?

The Swedish government will arrest everyone and ban the use of shoes!!!

This plant is not chemically enhanced for god sake. Its what god created!!!!
10:05 March 10, 2010 by Tim_22
"As long as abuse does not spread to your average Swede then those in power are obviously not interested."

that is really weird...
21:01 March 10, 2010 by locaxy
"It is the first time that I have heard about this (the connection to al-Shabab). This is very serious if revenues from drug smuggling go to terror groups"

Serious enough for drastic measures like legalization?

It should smack him in the face that it's the only solution to keep people from making 1000% off of a black market.
13:05 March 15, 2010 by magudbe
Hypocracy/double standard, does not know no bounders.. Khat , a harmless stimulant is banned in Sweden while Alcohol and Tobacco or better yet nicotine the two most dangerous drugs ever known to humans are regulated. Your gov and this minister in particular must be living in LALa land. Khat is way less dangerous than the caffiene in the coffee ,swedes like to line up in the early morning fix.or so called energy drinks (read herbal) such as Red Bull.

in order to extract I gramm of cantonine from Khat leaves you will need 640 pounds of Khat leaves .For the layman out there , it is 3 suit cases full of Khat... the average user uses about 200 gramm or two mardufs.. a marduf is bunch of twigs wrapped in banana leaves.There is nothing in Khat that warrants ppl to be criminalized !!. The whole idea to ban Khat in Sweden is to criminalize Somalis... there is no two ways about it. this ban only benefits the organized criminals , mainly from Somalia.. I have to disagree with the Minister that Khat proceeds end up at the hands of Alshabab.. If Alshabab really needs Khat proceeds why did they ban Khat in their strong hold in southern Somalia..? in fact it is shameful that Sweden .. a liberal democracy has the same policy as Al shabab- a terrorist group, when it comes it Khat.. How on earth do your country .. with established norm of freedoms and human rights end up being like Alshabab..?.. Swedes of Somali origin are being subjected to Alshabab laws right in Your country(in case u wondering am a Canadian citizen of Somali origin.)In Canada too Khat is banned while dangerous stimulants and hallucigens r perfect legal here.. known as legal highs.. from salvia to Ma haung, Yerba mate, Herbal ecstacy, Yohimbe, betel leaves , betel nuts, datura and prugmansia and thousand more.

Khat should be regulated .. prohibition does not work ..education and awarness does work.. by the way why do not your country ban Alcohol and nicotine.. these two drugs kill far more ppl than Khat?. this minister has logic in it's head.. in fact it is discrimation to target this community for a harmless stimulant..
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