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Anywhere but Afghanistan - 80% of Jamaican youngsters want to migrate

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Several of these young Jamaicans would head overseas if given a chance.

Scores of young Jamaicans looking for better educational and employment opportunities would pack up and leave the island for anywhere but Afghanistan.

While studies over the years have confirmed that a high number of Jamaicans would be ready to migrate given the opportunity, a just-concluded mobile youth survey has found 81 per cent of Jamaicans between the ages of 14 and 40 would leave at the drop of a hat - if not before.

The survey, commissioned by Respect Jamaica and the local office of UNICEF between February 29 and March 3, had 3,024 respondents from the Digicel customer base across the island.

It found that 75 per cent of those between 14 and 19 years old would leave for better opportunities, 83 per cent of young Jamaicans between the ages of 20 and 25 would also go, while 81 per cent of those between 26 and 40 would seek out greener pastures overseas.

For Kemario Davis, who is in the 20-25 age group, the only country not on his migration radar is Afghanistan.

According to Davis, several of his friends are also looking to leave as the economic noose tightens around the country's neck, crime and violence plague their everyday existence, and unemployment haunts them.

"I would have to decline an offer to Afghanistan because despite the crime in Jamaica, I believe I am safer here," Davis told The Sunday Gleaner.

He said for his age cohort, education and employment opportunities drive their yearning for overseas.

"Of course, if I had the chance right now, I would be looking towards Canada and the United States (US). There are better opportunities there, especially for education and employment, and once your legal status allows you to get financial aid, the prospects are better," argued Davis.

He said if migration options to the US, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) were off the table, opportunities would determine where he would head for.

"I would go anywhere as long as the employment and educational opportunities are available," said Davis.




In the meantime, André Stephens, a tertiary student, has his eyes set on migrating to Canada, the US or the UK.

"Yes, I would migrate, especially to Canada, because of the opportunities for young profes-sionals. There are opportunities for citizenship [as well as] work-and-study programmes in areas such as social work, which provide for a pension in later life," argued Stephens.

"Here, there is stagnation. The 9-5 job cannot provide enough income, and all it does is ensure that you don't leave your parents' house," added Stephens.

Like Davis, he would not consider moving to Afghanistan, but small islands in the region are not off-limits.

"If I see where I can go to some small island where I can get US$5,000 per month, it will be much better than staying here."

The findings of the Respect Jamaica/UNICEF mobile survey are in keeping with those of a January 2015 Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll, which found that more than four out of every 10 Jamaicans harbour a burning desire to leave the island.

In the Johnson poll, 43 per cent of Jamaicans said that either they or persons in their immediate families hoped to migrate to another country within the next five years.

Johnson's poll, which was conducted January 17-18, 2015, had a sample size of 1,100 persons and a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent.

Those findings were also consistent with another survey conducted in 2014 by the Centre for Leadership and Governance in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Mona, which found that a majority of Jamaican youth felt neglected and would migrate.

It also found that 49.3 per cent of young adults said they would give up their citizenship and live in another country, citing the need for better opportunities.

The US, Canada and the UK remain the countries of choice for Jamaican migrants.

Between 2010 and 2013, just under 100,000 Jamaicans migrated to the US, Canada and the UK.