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Unemployment drives Somali youths to emigrate, join extremist groups

Thursday, October 04, 2012
By Mahmoud Mohamed

Unemployment and poverty in Somalia have forced many young people to emigrate in search of a better life through perilous journeys across deserts and seas.

Abdirahman Ahmed, a 28-year-old graduate of the University of Somalia, said that despite his efforts to find work in the private or public sector, he has remained unemployed since he graduated last year. He said he hopes to find more opportunities abroad.

"I have been looking for a job opportunity since I graduated from university last year but I have been unable to find one because the job market cannot absorb the large numbers of graduates from private universities," he told Sabahi. "I have saved some money to travel abroad and I have decided to emigrate to Europe."

A United Nations report released Friday (September 28th) said the unemployment rate for youths in Somalia is one of the highest in the world at 67% among all 14 to 29-year-olds -- 61% among men and 74% among women.

The report said 40% of youths are actively looking for work, while 21% are neither working nor in school. "This jobless or discouraged group is the most disadvantaged and most vulnerable to risky and criminal behaviours," the report said.

The Somalia Human Development Report 2012, issued by the UN Development Programme, considers 82% of Somalis to be poor, with 73% living on less than $2 a day.

The report said Somalis under 30 constitute 70% of the population and two thirds of these young people would like to leave the country. The report cites poverty and high unemployment as the main reasons behind emigration.

"It is the task and responsibility of policy makers to listen to them now, to trust what they hear and to explore with young people how best to respond," UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden said in the report.

Because of widespread unemployment, thousands of young people have decided to leave Somalia for Yemen and the Arab Gulf countries, while some choose to go through Sudan and Libya to cross the Mediterranean Sea for Europe -- all of which are extremely dangerous journeys.

Abdullahi Mohamed, a sociologist at the University of Somalia, said young Somalis have been leaving the country over the past few years due to deteriorating economic and security conditions.

"The availability of suitable job opportunities for young Somalis can save them from such perilous journeys," he told Sabahi. "Emigration becomes a chance for young people to escape their reality, which is marked by widespread poverty and unemployment, and the absence of job opportunities, security and stability."

Hassan Abdishakur, head of the Himilo Welfare Organisation, says young people are well aware of the dangers of illegal immigration, but they still risk their lives.

"When youths cannot find jobs and they reach a dead end, they find no other way but to take the risk and embark on a dangerous journey," he told Sabahi.

Abdishakur said the government needs to address youth unemployment and provide the necessary support to start small projects. "The new government and relevant authorities need to tap into this wasted potential, since young people represent a large segment of society," he said.

Jobs offer alternative to piracy, extremism
Osman Moalim Ibrahim, deputy director of the Somali Youth Association in Mogadishu, says poverty in Somalia is a pest that has created despair and a tendency towards violence, which can lead to engaging in piracy and joining extremist groups.

"Young people currently constitute the majority of participants in armed groups and pirate gangs," he told Sabahi.

Ibrahim advised the new government to take practical and tangible steps to solve this problem. "We have to enable young people through building their educational and professional skills and providing job opportunities for them to prevent them from joining extremist groups and pirate gangs," he said.

Said Abdirazaq, a 24-year-old student on track to graduate from Plasma University next year, said many of his classmates are thinking of emigrating to Europe because they are aware of how difficult it is to find a job after graduation.

"The obsession of living abroad has taken over the minds of most young Somalis because of the frustration they feel due to widespread poverty and unemployment in the country," he told Sabahi.

Nonetheless, Abdirazaq said he has high hopes that the new government will be able to improve conditions in the country.

"The promises made by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud that his government will be able to revive the national economy and find a conducive environment for unemployed youths gives hope to young people who have lost all hope," he said.


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