Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said lack of opportunity is to blame for the number of young Somalis boarding rickety boats in hopes of reaching Europe.
The United Nations refugee agency said Wednesday that up to 500 migrants may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their overcrowded boat capsized and sank earlier this month.
Survivors told VOA's Somali service that more than 200 Somalis were among those killed.
In an exclusive interview with VOA Somali in Washington, Mohamud said, “We bear some of the responsibility for the influx of refugees [to Europe], as we are the leaders of Somalia.”
“These youths don’t hate their country; the parents are not [selling] their assets to send their kids to die in the sea, but the economic hardship is driving them to take the risky journey,” Mohamud said.
Asked why his government is not able to create jobs for the youth to stay home, Mohamud said, “Over 70 percent of Somalia’s population are youth under the age of 30, so the government can’t employ all of them, but we are busy to restore peace that will enable the youth to work in [the country].”
Regarding al-Shabab, Mohamud said the war against the militants is a "succeeding model" and pro-government African Union forces are winning.
The Somali government and the AU force known as AMISOM have been fighting al-Shabab for nearly a decade, and the group continues to launch deadly attacks in the capital and on AU bases in the countryside.
Mohamud, 60, also said he will run for a second term when Somalia holds new elections later this year. He was first elected in 2012.