New wave of Somali youth embark on dangerous border crossings in search of better future Radio Ergo

Migrants are seen in a rubber dinghy as they are rescued by the Libyan coast guard in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, Jan. 15, 2018. Reuters

Abdifatah Absiye Du’aake was informed of the death of his sister, Asha, at the hands of people smugglers in Libya just a week after paying $9,000 ransom money that he had collected from among his relatives abroad.

Asha, a single mother of three children who had been living with her brother in the northern Somali town of Lasanod, went missing on 7 January. She turned up in Libya, from where the family received a call 11 days after she had left Somalia.

“She always advised me against illegal immigration. I don’t know what informed her decision,” said a still grieving Abdifatah.

Abdifatah told Radio Ergo that his sister contacted him six times while in the custody of smugglers in Libya. The last time he talked with her over the phone on 18 February, she seemed too weak to speak. He was later sent a video on WhatsApp by the smugglers, saying she was sleeping.  He now thinks the video he received showed Asha’s corpse.

“Our biggest worry as a family now is that she hasn’t been buried yet. Her corpse is lying somewhere in Libya,” said Abdifatah, who has not managed to find out exactly where she was being held.

The smugglers have demanded an extra $2,000 for them to conduct her burial.

Asha’s death was confirmed to Abdifatah by another migrant, who was freed after his family paid a ransom.

Abdifatah noted that more than 20 youths he knows had migrated from Lasanod. He heard that two of them had died in Libya while in custody. From what he knows, his sister and two others travelling with her from Jaama-Laaye village in Lasanod passed through Ethiopia and Sudan on their way to Libya.

Lasanod, the capital of Sool region, has seen an increase in migration of young people, especially between the ages of 14 and 20, since the beginning of the year.

Lasanod resident Faduma Jama’s 17-year-old son went missing more than a month ago. She was contacted from Libya by the smugglers, who asked her for $11,000 in ransom. She told Ergo that her son Abdirahman Mohamed had been badly mistreated and had even been shot in the leg.

“I am dealing with a huge problem and I don’t know anyone to help me out. Every night before I sleep the smugglers call me, beating him to let me hear his cries,” Faduma told Radio Ergo.

She was told us that her son would be killed if she did not pay by 18 March. Faduma’s family depends on her husband, who works as a labourer in the construction industry earning minimal wages, and they are unable to find that money.

Saynab Ducale Gaad, the chairperson of NOW women’s association in Sool region, said there is a new wave of migration going on with new tactics being used by the people traffickers.

NOW has registered 30 boys and girls, between the ages of 14 and 20, who have migrated from Lasanod since January 2021.

“The smugglers have local agents now, who are contacting the youth on social media. They pay for their travel money up to Libya and ask the families to refund the money with interest later,” said Saynab.

Anyone wanting to reach Europe used to pay out to a trafficking ring upfront from their pocket. But now local smuggling agents are getting in touch and paying the initial travel money first, then reaching out later to the families to extract reimbursement in exchange for their child or young relative.

Local people attribute the new tactic to the fact that the borders have been closed by COVID19, affecting the smuggling business. To get back into the market, the smugglers have been using Somali nationals operating as agents to contact young people offering them funds to travel.

According to Saynab, NOW has been contacted by a number of mothers requesting them to help in the search for their children. They succeeded in stopping seven youths trying to sneak out at Wajale and Tukaraq border checkpoints between 25 January and 20 February.

Abdinasir Jama Barre, 20, was caught at a checkpoint in Wajale on 15 February after his uncle found out he was planning the risky trip.  The family shared his photo with the Wajale checkpoint authorities, who caught him and prevented him from crossing the border.

Abdinasir told Radio Ergo’s local reporter that he had been contacted by an agent saying he got his number from a friend of his, Salim, who was freed in Libya after his family paid $12,000 in ransom money to the smugglers. Abdinasir said he was sent $30 on his mobile money account by the agent to prove that money was ‘not a big deal.’

Abdinasir set off with three friends, but they were caught at Wajale checkpoint and sent back.

Abdinasir said he had been willing to take the huge risks involved because of the unemployment situation in the country. He added that a number of his friends had left Lasanod and were currently in Libya.

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