More than half of young Arabs want to emigrate

Students at a graduation ceremony at the University of Rabat in February. A survey found 70 percent of young Moroccans wanted to leave the country. (Reuters/File photo)
Updated 24 June 2019

More than half of young Arabs want to emigrate

  • Some 70 percent of young Moroccans express desire to leave their country
  • The Gulf is the number one choice for Egyptians, Yemenis, and Sudanese

LONDON: More than half the young people in much of the Arab world would like to leave their home countries, a survey conducted by BBC Arabic has found.

That number has jumped by more than 10 percent for those aged 18-29 since 2016, according to the Big BBC News Arabic Survey 2018/19, conducted with the Arab Barometer research group. The survey received responses from more than 25,000 people aged 18 and over in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, and Lebanon.

One of the survey’s most striking figures showed that 70 percent of young Moroccans were thinking about leaving their country. 

Almost half of those surveyed in Sudan, Jordan and Morocco — and a third of those in Iraq — are considering emigrating. Although Europe is the overwhelming choice for North Africans, the number of people in other countries in the region who want to go to Europe has fallen since previous surveys. 

The Gulf is the number one choice for Egyptians, Yemenis, and Sudanese, whilst North America is top of the wish list for people in Jordan and Lebanon.

Participants in the survey “seem to be turning away from Europe and towards North America and the Gulf, and that’s perhaps because the Gulf has been opening its doors a little bit more in recent years,” said Rosie Garthwaite, senior producer at BBC News Arabic. 

The number of people risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea and seek refuge in Europe surged in the last eight years — peaking in 2016. Many of those migrants were fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq, but there were also large numbers of Afghans, North Africans and people from sub-Saharan Africa making the journey.

Overall, there has been an increase in the number of people who are considering emigration since 2013 in Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, the survey said. However, there has been a decrease in the number in Palestine, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, and Lebanon. Rates in the latter have “declined substantially over the past decade,” the survey said. 

Often the desire to leave is fueled by a decline in the economic situation in the region, the report stated: “Economic factors are the predominant reason for emigration followed by corruption, and men are more likely than women to consider emigrating, especially in Egypt.” 

Arab countries had the highest youth unemployment rates in the world in 2018, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Conflict and instability in Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, Algeria, Libya and Iraq has increased economic deterioration.

The ILO says that around 20 percent of people aged 15-24 in Morocco were unemployed in 2018, and according to the survey a significant minority of people there “want more rapid or sudden (political) change, particularly young people.”

In Jordan and Lebanon, economies have been battered by the fallout from violence in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Jordan has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and has the second-highest share of refugees compared to population in the world. At the same time, tax hikes introduced to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) targets to reduce Jordan’s debt burden triggered widespread protests in 2018.

Since 2011, Lebanon has taken in 1.5 million Syrians and Palestine refugees from Syria, accounting for 30 percent of Lebanon's population, the world’s highest concentration per capita of refugees according to the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department.

Meanwhile, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya featured in the 10 most corrupt countries in the world according to the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018.

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

Updated 26 November 2020

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

  • Erdogan defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts
  • Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq: analyst

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the country has a “Kurdish issue,” even as he doubled down on his anti-Kurdish stance and accused a politician of being a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Erdogan was addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Nov. 25 when he made the remarks.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched an insurgency against the state in 1984, and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US. Erdogan accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK, which it denies.

Erdogan told AKP members that Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP’s former co-chair who challenged him in the 2015 presidential elections, was a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Demirtas has been behind bars since Nov. 4, 2016, despite court orders calling for his release and faces hundreds of years in prison over charges related to the outlawed PKK.

The president defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts in the country's Kurdish-majority southeast region since local elections in March 2019.

He also said the AKP would design and implement democratization reforms with its nationalistic coalition partner, which is known for its anti-Kurdish credentials.  

His words are likely to disrupt the peace efforts that Turkey has been making with its Kurdish community for years, although they have been baby steps. They could also hint at a tougher policy shift against Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

According to Oxford University Middle East analyst Samuel Ramani, Erdogan’s comments should be read as a reaction to Tuesday’s resignation of top presidential aide Bulent Arinc, who urged for Demirtas to be released and insisted that the Kurds were repressed within Turkey.

“This gained widespread coverage in the Kurdish media, including in Iraqi Kurdistan's outlet Rudaw which has international viewership,” he told Arab News. “Erdogan wanted to stop speculation on this issue.”

Ramani said that Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

“It is also an oblique warning to US President-elect Joe Biden not to try to interfere in Turkish politics by raising the treatment of Kurds within Turkey.”

But Erdogan’s comments would matter little in the long run, he added.

“Much more will depend on whether Turkey mounts another Operation Peace Spring-style offensive in northern Syria, which is a growing possibility. If that occurs during the Trump to Biden transition period, the incoming Biden administration could be more critical of Turkey and convert its rhetoric on solidarity with the Kurds into action.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key partner for the US in its fight against Daesh. During a campaign speech in Oct. 2019, Biden criticized the US decision to withdraw from Syria as a “complete failure” that would leave Syrian Kurds open to aggression from Turkey.

“It’s more insidious than the betrayal of our brave Kurdish partners, it’s more dangerous than taking the boot off the neck of ISIS,” Biden said at the time.

UK-based analyst Bill Park said that Erdogan was increasingly influenced by his coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“He might also believe that both the PKK and the HDP have been so weakened that he doesn't have to take them into consideration,” he told Arab News. “The Western world will not respond dramatically to this announcement but they are tired of Erdogan. There is little hope that Turkey's relations with the US or the EU can be much improved. The Syrian Kurdish PYD militia are seeking an accommodation with Damascus, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, is indifferent to the fate of Turkey's Kurds and has problems of its own.”

The HDP, meanwhile, is skeptical about Erdogan’s reform pledges and sees them as “politicking.”

“This reform narrative is not sincere,” said HDP lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, according to a Reuters news agency report. “This is a party which has been in power for 18 years and which has until now totally trampled on the law. It has one aim: To win back the support which has been lost.”

Turkey’s next election is scheduled for 2023, unless there is a snap election in a year.