By Liban Ahmad
Why do Somali youths put their lives at risk to illegally immigrate to Europe via Libya or Egypt? One of the answers to this question is: to avail themselves of opportunities in Western Europe about which their acquaintances and relatives brag in their Facebook exchanges.
The distance between Hargeisa and Western Europe has not decreased or increased but the the communication means for the Somalis in the homeland (daljoog) those is the diaspora ( qurbejoog ) has partly created the perception that illegal immigration to Europe is the only and easiest way to escape long-term unemployment in Somalia and Somaliland. Added to this pressure is the annual bash for the Somaliland diaspora held in Hargeisa, which subtly advertises modest achievements of Somali-born European citizens.
Parents and relatives of who mourned death of Somali youths when an overcrowded boat sunk in the Mediterranean Sea highlight institutional failures that force youths to attempt to a strike a balance between the well-known risks involved in travelling to Libya or Egypt to pay heartless human traffickers and the possibility of unemployment after graduation.
In a Friday sermon in a Hargeisa mosque Sheikh Adan Siiro faulted employment policies that favour least qualified job applicants over most qualified applicants. The Civil Service system in Somaliland has evolved over the last two decades. Grades have been introduced but the perception that favouratism is the core problem that predisposes youths to embark on risky immigration is gaining ground. Resources committed to creating public and private sector jobs for youths will bear fruits only if Somaliland government and private sector leaders beef up employment procedures from advertising jobs to shortlisting applicants for job interviews.
Higher education institutions have mushroomed in Somaliland. Universities in Hargeisa, Bura’o, Borama and Las Anod graduate thousands of youths annually and in the process glut the labour market with job seekers whose skills do not match skills needed by potential employers.
Twenty years ago Somaliland began to recover from intra-clan war. The period between 1996 and 2006 was a decade of reconstruction and institution-building spearheaded by returnees from refugee camps in Ethiopia and people displaced by the civil war in southern Somalia. From July 2010, when the incumbent Somaliand government took office, international partners of Somaliland invested in Small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs ) through Somaliland Business Fund, and in human development projects through Somaliland Development Fund. Before Somaliland government secured what the International Crisis Group calls special funding status people had begun to pay taxes to support efforts by political leaders to create a political order. It is time Somaliland political elites, business leaders and higher education sector owners returned the favour by dissuading youths from deadly immigration to Europe. Their intervention could range from internships, career advice, creating jobs that match skills of graduates as well as the introduction of vocational courses geared towards productive sectors of the economy.