Somalia: Families pay heavy price to free somali migrants

Published: May 29, 2014


Thousands of young people every year leave Somalia and migrate seeking jobs and a better life elsewhere. Many of them never come back to Somalia – and many don’t even make it to their desired destination, often leaving their parents to pay a heavy price. Muhubo Ahmed Shire’s eldest son had searched for a job for many months after graduating from a University in Bossaso.

He was deeply disappointed at his failure and one day sneaked away from home, planning to travel to Europe via Libya. “I looked for him everywhere, but he later called me from Addis Abba,” said his widowed mother Shire, who brought him up alone. “I worked hard to make him finish up to university education, hoping he would get a job and let me rest,” she added.

When Shire’s son reached Libya, he was kidnapped by a local gang demanding a ransom and he called his mother to secure his release.“They demanded about $5,000 saying otherwise they would kill my son,” Shire told Radio Ergo’s local reporter.

She had to sell her three-room house and borrow more money from relatives and friends to try to get her son released. “I sent about $5,000, but he was kidnapped again. So far I have paid about $7,000 and he’s still being held in the Sahara as a hostage,” she said.

Awil Abdi, another stricken parent, said his son was studying at a university in Dirirdhabe, Ethiopia. He dropped out of school and travelled to Libya without informing his family. He is now being held in Libya for the fourth time by local militias, asking for ransom money.

“They called us and told us they would take his kidneys out and sell them if we didn’t pay them. I begged people and have collected some money to give the kidnappers,” Abdi told Radio Ergo. So far he has paid about $8,000 to the militia. His son, who has sustained injuries, is still being held hostage.

Maryam Mohamed Nur’s son was in a similar plight but she could get no penny to secure the release of her son who is also being held in Libya. “I can get no money to pay these militias,” she told Radio Ergo’s local reporter in Galkayo.

Many of Somalia’s young would-be migrants are school-leavers and even university graduates. Some risk their lives trying to reach Saudi Arabia via a dangerous sea trip to Yemen, while others head to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea. Others migrate to South Africa in a land journey in which they illegally transit several African countries.

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