Becoming Chinese’: Meet the first Somali with a Home Return Permit

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Ali Mohamed Ali, the Hong Kong government’s official – and only – Somali translator tells Jenni Marsh about being a voice for new refugee arrivals in the city, and “becoming Chinese”.

NO MORE NORMAL I was born in Mogadishu in 1968 and my father is an opthamologist, who trained in Italy. Back then Somalia was a military dictatorship under Mohamed Siad Barre.

We had free health care and schooling but not much freedom of speech. Compared to the chaos you have now, however, Somalia was a nice place to live. A “normal” African country.

Compared to the chaos you have now, Somalia was a nice place to live

When I finished high school, I went to Delhi, in India, to study insurance. When I returned to Somalia, civil war had broken out. It was a mess.

Somalia has the longest coastline on the African continent, bigger than South Africa’s, and my family had started a seafood business. We were selling live lobsters to Dubai, so I moved to the UAE.

The El Nino phenomenon was causing biological and physical changes to the environment that affected fish distribution in the oceans and made it harder for fishermen in Somalia to dive down and catch the lobsters. We folded the business and I moved into logistics.

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