Human trafficking crisis plagues Somaliland region

By Barkhad Dahir in Hargeisa

July 01, 2013

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Hargeisa resident Halimo Ismail said she worries about the fates of her 27-year-old son Osman and 24-year-old daughter Hoda, who, like many youths in the region, arranged for human traffickers to smuggle them out of Somaliland.

  • East African migrants wait in Malta after being rescued from their stricken

					vessel, which had been adrift for days in November 2012. The Maltese military

					rescued and handed over to police about 250 undocumented migrants, including

					women and children. [Matthew Mirabelli/AFP]

    East African migrants wait in Malta after being rescued from their stricken vessel, which had been adrift for days in November 2012. The Maltese military rescued and handed over to police about 250 undocumented migrants, including women and children. [Matthew Mirabelli/AFP]

  • Two men from the village of Jalelo, near Hargeisa, chop wood for making

					coal. Scores of young Somaliland residents have been fleeing the region's harsh

					economic conditions in search of better opportunities abroad. [Simon

					Maina/AFP]

    Two men from the village of Jalelo, near Hargeisa, chop wood for making coal. Scores of young Somaliland residents have been fleeing the region's harsh economic conditions in search of better opportunities abroad. [Simon Maina/AFP]

"I cannot sleep due to worry. I am afraid they will die in the desert, get killed or their boat will be lost at sea," she told Sabahi.

Osman left in April and reached Libya two weeks ago, but Ismail has had no news from Hoda, who left this month. "Neither of them had any money when they left, but they were assisted by those who smuggle people," she said.

Since Osman's departure, he contacted his mother twice to ask her to send money to smugglers in Khartoum and Dubai, so Ismail said she sent payments of $2,300 and $1,350.

Osman is waiting for another $1,400 from his mother to pay for his maritime passage to Europe. Hoda will need to pay the same fare, provided she makes it to the Libyan coast from the desert, Ismail said. Smugglers hold migrants hostage in the Libyan desert until they pay the fare in full, she said.

During the past three months, scores of people aged between 15 and 25 have left Somaliland unsafely with assistance from illegal human trafficking networks, said Somaliland National Youth Organisation (SONYO) Chairman Mubarak Ismail Taani.

"At this point, youth migration is out of control -- it has become a national tragedy in Somaliland," he told Sabahi.

Taani said youths have been fleeing the region's rampant unemployment. In late 2011, SONYO released a study showing that young people made up 70% of Somaliland's population, but three-quarters were jobless.

SONYO estimates that about 50 young people are smuggled out of the country every month, although the secretive nature of these operations makes it is difficult to be precise.

"Even though risky migration existed previously, an organised group has formed this year that is smuggling youth from Hargeisa and other major cities," Taani said. "They have offices in Hargeisa, and it is a new network that is connected all the way to Libya."

In some cases, when migrants' families cannot raise enough money to pay the traffickers, the migrants have to exchange vital organs as payment, Taani said.

To solve the problem, the regional administration and the public should jointly address unequal access to jobs and tribal nepotism, which have demoralised youth, according to University of Hargeisa Professor Sharmarke Abdi Ibrahim. "Job creation, support programmes, leisure programmes for youth and awareness about the extent of the [migration] problem have to be prioritised," he told Sabahi.

Government action

In collaboration with police, the Somaliland Immigration Department is working to arrest smugglers trafficking youths across the border, the department's Deputy Chief Mohamed Saleban said.

He said the Somaliland administration was looking to collaborate with law enforcement agencies in the region to stop the smugglers, and recently sent to the Ethiopian government a list of names of people connected to the network who are operating out of Addis Ababa.

Already, the administration has taken action against those involved in human trafficking.

On April 21st, a Somaliland court sentenced nine men convicted of human trafficking to between three and six months in jail. They had been arrested the day before in Wajale, near Somaliland's border with Ethiopia.

On June 16th, a court in Gabiley began hearing the case of another nine people accused of being part of the network of smugglers in Somaliland, Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, Saleban said.

On June 23rd, Somaliland regional President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo announced the formation of a seven-member migration prevention and job creation committee.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mohamud Ahmed Barre will head the new committee, while the other six members will be Minister of Youth, Sports and Tourism Ali Said Raygal, Interior Minister Ali Mohamed Waranade, Religious Affairs Minister Sheikh Khalil Abdullahi Ahmed, Information Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Dahir Ukuse, Planning Minister Saad Haji Ali Shire, and Justice Minister Hussein Ahmed Aideed.

Silanyo said he appointed the committee to put a stop to the "calamity" of illegal emigration and "to save the youth".

"The number of youth planning to emigrate is increasing and has affected the Somaliland public, as risky migration is a tragedy that leads to loss of life and people," he said in a statement.

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Reader's Comments

  • hodan
    September 30, 2013 @ 01:52:38PM

    People everywhere migrate just to become economic refugees elsewhere but most of the migrants come from Mogadishu. Very few people have migrated from Somaliland. The other thing is that Somaliland is an existing nation and will exist forever but it is up to those whose deny its existence. May God lead us to the straight path.

  • amina hassan
    September 8, 2013 @ 11:12:09AM

    I agree with you, Issa Hassan. It's true that Somaliland is a country and not a region as he was explaining it.

  • Diana
    July 4, 2013 @ 05:06:31AM

    An informative article, however smuggling and human trafficking are two different things. There is a fine line, but the line exists and distinction needs to be made. The article seems to use the terms interchangeably.

  • Ahmed Gaileh
    July 2, 2013 @ 04:24:49PM

    To correct you, Somaliland Republic is an independent country gained her independence from Britain on June 26, 1960 but not a regional adminstration as you stated in your above essay.

  • issa hassani
    July 2, 2013 @ 09:29:38AM

    Firstly, I am greeting you. I am totally opposed to the assertion that Somaliland is a region. It is an independent country. Also, it is not only the youth from Somaliland who are refugees, there are also refugees from neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti. I would like the person who wrote the word "region" to correct it. I think, it's clear. God bless Somaliland. (Amen).

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