#childsafety | Inquest told how teenage refugee who fled torture in Eritrea was found dead at Camden hostel

Osman Ahmednur came to the UK in the back of a refrigerated lorry

A CORONER has said if a teenage refugee living at a Camden hostel had been referred for an emergency mental health assessment before his death, it is “possible that the outcome would have been different”.

Osman Ahmednur was discovered hanged in the communal hallway of a hostel in Camden Road run by One Housing, in May last year. He is one of four young males refugees in a friendship group who appear to have taken their own lives since November 2017.

The 19-year-old, who had been studying English at Westminster Kingsway College, had planned to become a carpenter.

St Pancras Coroner’s Court has previously heard how he had fled Eritrea, east Africa, where he had been tortured and imprisoned, before crossing the Mediterranean and arriving at Calais.

In 2015, aged 16, he came to this country from France in the back of a refrigerated lorry, jumping off in King’s Cross. He was put into care and ended up in the hostel in Camden Road.

The inquest, which concluded today (Friday), had heard heartbreaking testaments about the treacherous journeys children fleeing from Eritrea faced on their journeys and how their troubles can continue once they reach safety. 

Osman Ahmednur travelled to Britain through Calais

Statements from his friends read to the court said Osman had appeared stressed before his death, and sometimes drank alcohol and smoked cannabis.

He had been stop-and-searched by police and had been consumed with fear that his leave to remain status could be revoked and that he might be sent back to Eritrea, the inquest heard. He told his key worker that a voice in his head had told him to kill himself. 

His close friend Filmon Yemane died at another young people’s sheltered accommodation in Allcroft Road, Queen’s Crescent, in November 2017. A fortnight later, Alex Tekle, who was based in south London, took his own life. Both were just 18 years old. Another teenager Mulubrhane Medhane Kfleyosus, 19, died in Milton Keynes in February. 

Anyone struggling is urged to call the Samaritans who offer free and confidential advice during times of crisis. You can contact them on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

Concluding the inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court, senior coroner Mary Hassell said Osman had caused his own death, but it was unclear whether he had intended to take his life and unclear whether he was psychotic, potentially from cannabis use. 

He had declined some mental health help, such as group therapy and individual counselling, but was being enrolled on a therapeutic programme centred on football. Ms Hassell said for him to talk about his feelings was “just so hard”. 

Ms Hassell concluded there was “no shared understanding” between Camden Council, One Housing about the role of a Camden and Islington NHS Trust psychologist advising front line staff, who were not mental health professionals, on what to do. 

She added: “Despite knowing that Osman had reported a voice in his head telling him to kill himself the PICT (psychologically informed counselling and training) psychologist advising those caring for him, failed to recommend referral for emergency mental health assessment. She asked them direct questions regarding risk, but gave false assurance. She told the team not to panic. They relied upon her clinical judgment, but it was the wrong clinical judgment. 

“There was no shared understanding between Camden and Islington Mental Health NHS Trust, One Housing and Camden Social Services of the role of the psychologist, nor did it reflect the role as understood by senior Camden and Islington Mental Trust management. The trust failed to define the role clearly and failed to give partner agencies or even for the psychologist herself, a proper understanding of how the role should work.

“The psychologist was of the view that her role was not to develop action, it was simply ‘to facilitate a thinking space’, but towards the end of Osman’s life she was the only member of the team looking after him with clinical expertise and it was inevitable that partner agencies caring for him should look to her to give mental health advice. That was her role.

“Nobody thought this was an emergency situation. If Osman had been referred for emergency mental health assessment, it is possible that the outcome would have been different.”

After the inquest, his parents Ahmed Nur and Zaynib Mussa who live in Eritrea, said in a statement: “All we wanted to know throughout this process is how this could have happened to our son, Osman. Our son had a future. He was smart and brilliant. We heard that in Europe, people have human rights and that’s why we expected Osman would be safe and well in the UK. If we had thought that Osman might not be safe in the UK, we never would have let him leave us. We are completely devastated and have not recovered from Osman’s death.”

His mother added: “I wish my son had seen a doctor when he became unwell. If I had been with Osman I would have held him in my arms and taken him to a doctor – I wish he could have been looked after in the way that a mother would look after her child.”

Solicitor Olivia Anness, from Bhatt Murphy who represented the family, said: “The outcome of this inquest is an indictment of our mental health services and the ways in which we fail to look after unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people.”

Ms Hassell said she was “very aware of the potential for suicide to be contagious in any given community” and would be passing her determination to the coroners in Mr Tekle’s and Mr Kfleyosus’s inquests.

During the August hearing, she directed the council to alert other local authorities that there may be an increased rick of suicide among Eritrean young people who arrived in the UK as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).

A council spokesman said: “This was a truly tragic case. Our deepest sympathies are with Osman Ahmednur’s family and all who knew him. We will carefully study the coroner’s conclusions in her report and consider whether we need to take any further action, in addition to the action we have already taken following the research and learning on young asylum seekers we have completely and shared with council’s across the country.”

Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends affected by this tragic incident. The PICT team from Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust was involved in working with staff in the young people’s supported accommodation pathway who were supporting Osman Ahmednur.”

It added: “The Trust has since made changes to how we work with the young people’s support accommodation pathway including reviewing the management structure and appointing new staff who oversee the services for young people who are transitioning into adult car. We continue to improve the governance and are working closely with colleagues from our partner organisation to ensure everyone in the pathway is clear about the service we offer, and how it operates.”

The New Journal has approached One Housing for comment.

Anyone struggling is urged to call the Samaritans who offer free and confidential advice during times of crisis. You can contact them on 116 123  or email jo@samaritans.org

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