Since 1990, thousands of Somalis have either left their home countries as economic migrants or fled as refugees. Most of them have spent months, if not years, in refugee camps in Kenya and other neighbouring countries.
Nearly 200,000 Somalis refugees have fled to Yemen with around 50,000 fleeing to the UAE. There are around 150,000 Somalis in Canada, 100,000 in the UK and another 85,000 in the US.
Within Somalia, more than a million people are internally displaced.
Ethiopia hosts 4.6 million Somalis, while Kenya has more than 2 million Somali refugees.
After a series of Al Shabab attacks, the Kenyan government recently started ordering Somalis back into refugee camps and forced the rest to return to Somalia.
Hardly a year has passed without Somali asylum seekers trekking dangerously to one region of the world or the other. Somali youth, particularly men, have unfortunately been caught at the centre of this mass illegal migration.
In 2017, International Organization for Migration estimates that almost 100,000 migrants crossed into Yemen from the Horn of Africa.
In neighboring Ethiopia, political instability and land scarcity have contributed to a growing number of people leaving the country in the past few years. In Eritrea, indefinite national service and political repression are consistent push factors for the thousands that flee every month.
But in almost all cases, the hope of greater economic opportunity – and knowing people who have made the journeys before – is also a key factor. The UN estimates that 5,000 people leave Eritrea and Ethiopia each month.
In Somalia’s autonomous region of Puntland, hundreds of desperate Ethiopians and Eritreans fleeing political persecution or in search of greener pastures end up stranded in Somalia’s bustling port of Bossaso, struggling to scratch together enough money for the dangerous journey across the Gulf of Aden in smugglers’ boats, or just struggling to survive.
Causes of Migration
Lack of gainful employment opportunities for young people has been cited as a major reason for youth migration. Other trigger factors of migration, otherwise known as tahriib in Somalia, include political persecution, especially in Ethiopia and Eritrea, poor economic conditions, unregulated and low quality education, peer pressure, the diaspora and social media influences. Migration is also sparked by insecurity in some parts of the country, particularly in Somalia and Ethiopia, and strong smuggling networks, popularly referred to as Magafe in the Somali language.
Other factors include potential job opportunities in Europe, the attractive image of Western countries and quality of life in Europe, and of course receiving free social welfare grants.
Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants trying to reach Europe have been caught up in the civil war ravaging Libya.
Earlier this month 50 asylum seekers were injured after Libyan police used excessive force against migrants protesting against horrible detention conditions in Libya.
The migrants staged protests at the Sikka detention centre, where they had been detained for months with no prospects of solution.
Some of the 400 protesters are said to be from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.
In #Ethiopia large groups do not cross the desert with a broker (a “trafficker” in the popular discourse) as visualised in the popular imagination and instead split up and this can increase risks for women travelling on their own. https://t.co/m45q1hi7j7 #migration— Migration RPC (@MigrationRPC) December 16, 2018
Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the agency was troubled by reports of the use of force against protesting asylum seekers.
Currently, there are 5,700 refugees and migrants in detention, of whom 4,100 are assessed to be of concern to UNHCR and may have international protection needs.
Last year Somali government efforts to evacuate a large number of Somali migrants from Libya hit a snag after the delegation that was sent there was unable to persuade the migrants to abandon the dangerous sea journey to Europe and instead return home.
The Somali government delegation said the migrants told them that they have suffered during the journey to Libya and feel that they have “nothing else to lose”. Officials said the migrants were determined to make a final attempt to reach Europe.
Say no more tahrib somalia is peace. A perfect place to live pic.twitter.com/6jRJBeSP6U— Abdihakim Ali Aden (@abdihakim_ad1) August 17, 2016
Migrants from the horn of Africa face enormous risks and challenges during the desperate journeys, including death, detention and sexual and physical abuse. Moreover, the majority of the migrants do not end up achieving the high expectations they had before they began the dangerous journey and many face a difficult life in their destination countries.
Migrants who spoke to TRT world said that apart from the security problem and political persecutions in the Horn of Africa, they were undertaking the journey to Europe to help their families back home financially.
For instance remittances from the overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the Somali economy, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. Forty percent rely on them to meet food security needs.
Tahrib, or illegal migration, is a hot topic among the youth from the Horn of Africa nations and some have taken to social media to express their feelings.
While many young people are undertaking the dangerous journey to Europe in search of greener pastures, others from the diaspora have returned home, particularly to Somalia, mainly from Europe and the United States. The visibility of the returnees in the public and business sectors has been increasing every year.
In October 2013, the Somali Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the Department of Diaspora Affairs. In the breakaway self-proclaimed Somaliland, the Somaliland Diaspora Agency was created in 2010.
Many young Ethiopians have also returned home following the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s rise to power in April last year.