“Dechesa” addiction among Ethiopians in the UK – By Mulumebet Asfaw

March 24th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Last year I went to the United Kingdom to do a comparative research on welfare benefits, its advantages and its adverse effects. That had given me a chance to closely scrutinise how some Ethiopians in the UK survive on benefits. You may wonder why anyone would want to write about the positive and negative effects of benefits on an immigrant community. The simple answer is the pervasive addiction of welfare benefits, also known as Dechasa, among able bodied Ethiopians who have every opportunity to succeed without being indefinitely dependent on welfare benefits.


Last year I went to the United Kingdom to do a comparative research on welfare benefits, its advantages and its adverse effects. That had given me a chance to closely scrutinise how some Ethiopians in the UK survive on benefits. You may wonder why anyone would want to write about the positive and negative effects of benefits on an immigrant community. The simple answer is the pervasive addiction of welfare benefits, also known as Dechasa, among able bodied Ethiopians who have every opportunity to succeed without being indefinitely dependent on welfare benefits.

The United Kingdom is a country where a generous welfare system helps those who cannot afford to cope with the cost of life. Those without jobs, anyone unable to earn a living due to other unfortunate circumstances like serious illnesses and disabilities get assistance from the tax payer’s coffers under various schemes. There are many kinds of benefits, like job seekers allowance, income support, disability allowance, housing benefit, child benefit, council tax benefit etc.

The benefit system in the UK has its own weaknesses and can easily be abused and manipulated by unscrupulous individuals with false claims. What I found striking is not the number of Ethiopians who are on benefits because they have legitimate grounds to get support to survive. Asylum seekers who are not allowed to work, which is another weakness of the system, senior citizens, children under 18, genuinely single mums, disabled and unemployed people have all legitimate grounds to claim welfare benefits for survival.

As the main objective of the benefit system is to help those who cannot afford to pay their bills because of joblessness, disabilities or any other legitimate grounds, one cannot criticise them for being dependent on welfare benefits because of their unfortunate circumstances as there are a number of Ethiopians in this category who have good reasons to seek assistance from public funds.

My critical views are directed towards Ethiopians in the UK who are deliberately trying to make every effort not to get stuck in the benefit system even if they have every chance to take advantage of the opportunities on offer to them. One of the undesirable effects of Dechesa is making some people to develop a culture of laziness and dependency syndrome abusing the benefit system at will, sometimes doing nothing except backbiting others. If anyone dares to advise these kinds of people why don’t they try to lead meaningful lives, they are likely to angrily retort “It is none of your business. That is envy!” In a civilised society though, there is however nothing off limit closer scrutiny especially when a malpractice is grossly wrong.

Let us put “Dechasa” addicts under different categories. However, caution must be taken that this is not an effort to expose the corrupt practise, as it is already an open secret, but to encourage Ethiopians to believe in hard work and to shun a system that can prevent them from leading productive and meaningful lives free from cheating, which is not a smart way of earning a living at the expense of hard working people who pay their taxes responsibly. Putting such a malfeasance under scrutiny can show Ethiopians, whether in the UK or other countries, that it is hard work, not welfare dependency and addiction, that should be construed as a source success, pride and confidence.

1. The job dodger: There are some who are able to work and earn their living. Some are well qualified but never want to get employed. Among the Ethiopian community in the UK, it is a taboo to ask why. But you hear constant moaning from the job dodgers that the Job Centre, a government agency that puts people into jobs, is harassing them to do training and offering work. Don’t get surprised if you hear the job dodgers saying: “These cruel people have found me a job. I will tell them I am too ill to work.” This may appear a joke but it is a reality of life for the job dodgers. They are too lazy to work or they have a preconceived idea that they can only be better off to be on benefits forever.

2. Married but separate: In order to take advantage of the loop holes in the system, these one get married with a lot of fanfare and big limos. The trouble with them is that even if they get married legally they declare divorce as soon as possible or they never declare their marriage. The extreme cases go as far as both claiming income support, job seekers allowance, housing and council tax benefits. It doesn’t end there. They rent out flats and houses that are registered under a housing benefit claimant. That means they live rent free and become landlords and landladies of properties that they spend not a single penny on. In some cases they even go out for extra income working in the black market.

3. Healthy but disabled: Under these categories fall those who are healthy but claim to be disabled. They claim the maximum amounts of welfare benefits but one may find them doing hard jobs in the underground. They never wish to have a decent job as they think they are too smart to squeeze the system.

4. Self-employed but no income: Cab drivers and business owners fall under this category. Some amongst this group declare their income so low that their income would appear not even enough to pay their rent. Assisted by dodgy accountants, they prefer to save their income and claim benefits for their basic expenses including housing rent.

5. The young pensioner: Cheating the benefit system has become so entrenched among Ethiopians in the UK that even young people prefer to live like old aged pensioners rather than getting qualifications and aspire to fulfil their dreams.

6. The landlord on welfare: As I have mentioned above, some become scrupulous landlords claiming all kinds of benefits. The majority of the dodgy dealers live with their partners, girl friends, boy friends, husbands and wives while claiming state benefits. This practically turns them into landlords on welfare which is an illegal way of making money that they have never toiled to earn. If anyone challenges these malfeasance affecting a significant number of individuals and families, they would be victims of smear campaigns as those who have a problem with the truth find it hard to handle it.

To my amazement, the majority benefit cheats I have come across think that this is a smart way of survival but what is at stake is honesty, integrity and morality. Some families who have children but live on benefits while earning enough teach their children a bad lesson. The community organisations that are supposed to show the right ways and means of survival to the Ethiopians community in the UK have their own weaknesses as they are too focused on fundraising and siphoning off funds to their own ends.

It is very healthy to aspire to prosper. But prosperity should come through hard work and real earning. Living in confidence is much better than playing hide and seek with welfare officers.

Those who have no choice but to survive on benefits are beyond reproach. They have little options. But those who are capable of supporting themselves and making positive contributions to their host country should accept the fact that hard work is the best way of survival with dignity. It should also be noted that there are so many Ethiopians who work and study hard to succeed in the United Kingdom in the right ways. Unnecessary dependency syndrome and addiction to Dechasa must be shunned and discouraged as it is not a smart way of survival for those who cheat. Whereever we go we must believe that we can make in in the right way of life.

  1. alex
    | #1

    Meles Zenawi family including his sister in London are all benefits. Other high government officials have also relatives who are on the dole. They should all be exposed.

  2. Tedla Hailu
    | #2

    Dear Mulumebet Asfaw,

    Do you think Ethiopians are “cheats” right from birth?

    Have you tried to look into the core reasons why some Ethiopians in the UK turned to be dependents of “Decheda?”

    How much percentage of well-qualified Ethiopians or UK citzens of Ethiopian origin have decent professional jobs in the UK even though those same people were educated and accredited right there (in the UK)?



  3. Tariku
    | #3

    Wonderful comment.

  4. BA
    | #4

    Dear Mulumebet
    You did your homework/research very well. That is the reality here in the UK. It is also very good of you to have the courage to speak out against this taboo. It is shame that while there are a lot of hard working Ethiopians who are trying to meet ends through legitimate means there are scams that are working hard to cheat the system. We cannot feed ourselves neither at home nor abroad

  5. Gudugena
    | #5

    That is a common cold even Canada, Norway and German you can see much worst happening.
    What a shame!!that is Why we are not ready for a
    challenge to built a better society from home to the rest of the World.what a generation!
    but they travel twice a year to boosting poors ethiopian’s life style.

  6. Abdul
    | #6


    Let me point my finger to others because it is our culture, may be we ethiopian learnt it from our neighbour Somalia? Just kidding!

    Any ways I blame for this the older generation who came to the west and start this kind of cheating and proudly pass it on to the new comers as a disease. My second blame is on the Ethiopian Community Associations in respected countries doing nothing by creating awearness to avoid this kind of disease from ethiopians.

    I will say it is a disease even a cronic one unless we together fight that, it will kill us or won’t go away easily.

    Finally I would like to thank you the writer from my heart and now please let us discuss how to overcome this problem from our community


  7. tade
    | #7

    What a courageous sister to expose our chronic illnesss called “the cheat syndrom”. Cheat here, cheat there and cheat everywhere. The government at home is headed by pathological liars and master cheats. They exported this infection everywhere in the world where we ethiopians happen to flee. the “cheat syndrome” as infectious it is, also becoming genetic as it is passing on to the next generation. Who is to blame? our culture? our religion? I dont think so. we have got cultural upbringing and religious beliefs which teach “moral” at its highest standard. I would say the political system and politicians running that system are the whole reason for the infection spread unchecked all over the world – europe, canada, america , australia, africa etc etc.

    Muluembet, your research is an eye opener for all who uphold an ethiopian moral our forefathers have kept for centuries. Abdella from toronto has clearly mentioned that the ethiopian community associations every where have to teach new comers the moral value of ethiopians instead of giving misguided approach to how they deal with the system. They must teach them that true integration in their new environment emanates from their being law abiding citizens. They must tell them that trying to abuse the system is illegal and punishable by a court of law. Any financial or material gain from illegal use of the system meant for the needy must be discouraged by every possible means. Officials of the ethiopian community must clearly understand that they are poisoning the next generations life and must refrain from enouraging our people to look for unearned benefits. Instead, they must educate community members to upgrade skills and get a productive employment. They can teach them to become enterprenors as well should resources allow. They can guide them to get away with housing subsidies by organizing them into housing cooperatives. There is always a resource from the government for people who want to come out of welfare, subsidized housing etc.

    Let’s commend muluemebet for touching upon this thorny issue which we hope we will fully engage into it to keep the good name of “mother ethiopia and gallant sons and daughters’

  8. Mulumebet Asfaw
    | #8

    First of all, I never said that that my opinion piece is directly related to my academic research. However, my academic research has helped me to observe what is going on among benefit claimants in the UK. I have clearly used some to indicate that not all are dishonest. In any case, this is a culture that needs to be discouraged. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. As far as my opinion is concerned, what I said is a true reflection of the reality. I know that most of us are interested in hearing praise about Ethiopiawi Chwanet etc. Let us also face the truth even if it may be hurtful. I am only calling on an honest debate. It is up to each one of us to make adjustments based on the reality on the ground. Thank you.

  9. Arefe
    | #9

    “ewqe yallew be arba kenu yakale ewqe yalalew
    be arba ametu ayakeme”
    Me, Mulumebete “Ethiopiawi Chwanet” first of all
    when we try hard to destroy the country how we
    maintain culture and moral?”Yabateh bete sizeref abreh zerefe” last time I was in Ottawa city one Ethiopian try to convinced me that
    welfare “dechesa” is more money than ethiopian
    minister salary. here I learn something westerns
    says ” 85% Ethiopian earn less than one dollar
    a day” Therefore,”wesha bekededew jibe Ygebale”
    even if you have true ehiopian moral value it is
    not our debate that it makes a difference but
    the country it self has to made action when others are profitable from the system why we
    criticize each other with somebody eals money?
    please try to research how Ethiopians not leave their homeland? how Ethiopia will be for Ethiopians? how we maintain proud be Ethiopian not to be a beggar not out side the country in the country? Ethiopian community is not liable
    or has no right to determine how others have to
    live.see around the world those who abuse the system they are not Ethiopian community members.
    the community have nothing to give and expect from them your idea is supper but no resolution.
    Ethiopia wants more Women’s like you.Good job!!!

  10. Atlabachew
    | #10

    Madam Mulu
    It is good research but I doubt if Ethiopian in your generation knows better than Britishers in old time history take this…
    Africa to 1875 by ROBINHALLET P.280 walter plowden,a perceptive British consul,Ethiopians
    “are a happy people. they possess in their own land all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life in abundance; they have great
    freedom of speech and action and are always carefree,sytematically, as by constitution .it is hard to convince them that they benefit either by our science or our wealth.”"In Europe,”
    an Ethiopian who had visited told Plowed,
    “the rich can live more luxuriously but there is
    no country like Ethiopia for the poor.”
    Here take advise that to stand for your people
    not against us let others to worries for them
    research how we Ethiopians bring Goodgovernance,
    peace,justice,freedome of speech,and unity to
    eliminate be immigrant and Neo-colony implement
    welfare subsidised houses and dignity.
    I condemned for those Who denigrating my
    Decent citizen.!!! Thank you>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  11. sol
    | #11

    Dear Writer,

    I can not thank you enouph for putting the issue out in the open. I have been in the US for over 30 years and those who came behind me tend to leave a better life than I. I’ve always wondered how they do it and you just shed some lite into it. I am not saying everyone but those who abuse the system and wait for the handout.

    I wish you had some statistics to support your study. I did not expect this from our brothers and sisters in Europe. What we know and have heard is that they area hard workers and never made enouph. As for one of the comments that was made blaming those of us who came first teaching the new comers. That’s not true. The migrants that came with in the past ten or fifteen years came to US for one purpose and one purpose only. MAKE MONEY AT ANY COST. Therefore, moral and discency(sp) is the last thing on their mind. I managed a company that is world wide and helped many of my fellow Ethiopians to get their first job. After they get to know me, their question or desire is to formulate a plan to rip off the company. They go as far as asking me to put them where they have access to cash transactions.

    take care and thanks.

  12. SELAM
    | #12

    Hello am just wondering is it easy to live in uk? i am going to get a visa like work visa for one yr or more if its good to live or work. I am really cofused by now to deside please let me know i really need your help. thankyou so much 4 your help.

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