IOM is finalizing a diaspora mapping exercise of skilled Somali migrants in the UK. The project, the first of its kind, is designed to encourage migrants with technical skills to participate in the development of their home country. The survey focuses on “educated, qualified and trained practitioners in the fields of health, engineering, general technical support, education, law and technology” in the Somali UK diaspora. Somalis have settled in the UK since the mid-19th century, when Somali sailors first arrived in UK port cities. The civil war and instability in Somalia between 1988 and 1991, which continues today, triggered an exodus and there are now between 100,000 and 200,000 people of Somali origin living in the UK. They include a diverse mixture of first generation and British-born students, asylum-seekers, skilled professionals.
The IOM exercise, conducted by consultants from the Shan Cultural Association UK, used a combination of questionnaires and discussions with groups representing the community, the Somali embassy and UK civil servants. The project started with a survey of the Somali UK diaspora to establish their demographic make-up, their distribution in the UK, their skill sets and their relationship with Somalia. It also explored possible obstacles to their involvement in development projects in Somalia. The survey showed that a remarkable 87 per cent of those questioned “would contribute to the development of their country through short-term knowledge and skills transfer.” Together with security concerns, one of the main reasons cited for not getting involved was existing work commitments in the UK.
The finding highlighted the importance of employer involvement in projects like the IOM-UNDP QUESTS-MIDA programme, which encourages Somali technical experts living abroad to undertake short assignments in Somalia that contribute to the country’s development. The Somali UK diaspora map is one of several mapping exercises currently being carried by IOM London. Other governments that have commissioned similar projects include Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Lesotho. The mapping exercises are potentially important for skill-starved developing countries. For example, an estimated 20 per cent of Sierra Leonean physicians and 25 per cent of Sierra Leonean nurses work in the UK.