Somalia deports 27 Kenyans in crackdown on illegal workers

Many Somalis are worried that foreigners are snapping up the best jobs as the country works to recover from civil war. Two-thirds of young people are unemployed.

ISMAIL TAXTA/Reuters
People played on the Lido beach in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, in September. While attacks occur, the use of the beaches is a sign of growing stability in the country.

Somalia ordered the deportation Thursday of 27 Kenyans who were working there illegally, a sign that order is slowly being resuscitated as the nation struggles to recover from decades of war.

This is the first time in 25 years that a Somali court has initiated deportation proceedings. Judge Hashi Elmi Noor said that the case was a warning to the unknown number of immigrants illegally employed in the country, the BBC reports. The deportees – who worked for Liber Link, a foreign software company, and denied working without a permit, according Kenya's Star newspaper – were also fined $10 for each day they overstayed their visa. 

Somalia is targeting the many foreigners who have snapped up the skilled labor opportunities and lucrative contracts becoming available in the wake of a conflict that forced millions to flee and stripped the country of much of its skilled worked force. Many young Somalis – whose education was disrupted and who make up 70 percent of the population – have struggled to find work, leaving about 67 percent of them unemployed, according to the World Bank.

Foreigners from around Africa are now entering Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu, and are often hired over Somalis, VOA reported last year:

With development on the upswing, the on-rush of foreign laborers isn't sitting well with some locals.

“Most of the Mogadishu youths are not happy with the increase of foreign staff," says Mogadishu resident Abdinur Mohamed. "The government should create a law that dictates at least 80% of the staff in all sectors of the economy to be from the local community”.

According to Mohamed, it's a sentiment shared by most young Somalis, many of whom were unable to secure the necessary qualifications or training due to the country’s ongoing conflict. Even recent graduates are facing few job prospects, and some are demanding limited-duration work permits foreign experts.

The government drafted a law last spring ordering employers to prioritize hiring Somali nationals over foreigners. Now work permits are mandatory for all foreigners, and regulation of the process is strengthening, as the deportation case this week underscored.

South Sudan went through a similar problem in 2012 when a flood of foreigners entered Africa's youngest nation to work during the early years of nation-building. By September 2014, the government banned foreign workers, saying it would provide more opportunities for South Sudanese.

In Somalia, security remains a problem. Al Shabab, the Somalia-based Islamist militant group, attacked one of Mogadishu's most popular hotels on Sunday, killing 14.

But as the country continues to recover, most visibly with the building boom in Mogadishu, many Somalis want to see their own at work.

“There is nothing wrong with bringing foreign expertise, but let them stay for a specific period, like a year," says Mr. Mohamed to VOA. "Within that year, let them train Somali staff so that they may be able to take up these roles in the future.”

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