Iraq fears a ‘brain drain’ as educated young people head to Europe

The Washington Post reports: Compared to many Iraqis, Mohammed Falah concedes that his life isn’t so bad. He has a career, a home.

Nonetheless, the 24-year-old civil engineer from Baghdad plans to fly to Turkey next week to join the surge of migrants and refugees making a bid for a better life in Europe. It is part of what Iraqi officials describe as a new “brain drain” as young graduates seize what they perceive as a rare opportunity to leave a country racked by violence.

More than 50,000 Iraqis have left the country over the past three months, according to the United Nations, joining the hundreds of thousands making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

Nearly 3.2 million people have been forced to leave their homes since Islamic State militants began to seize Iraqi territory early last year — the fastest-growing displacement crisis in the world.

Iraqi officials, however, say a disproportionate number of those leaving are not among the displaced, but educated young men who can afford the journey.

“I saw this wave of young people who were going, many of my friends going, and I saw this as a chance,” said Falah, who hopes to make it to Germany. “I’m in a better position than many people, but I want to make a better future for my family.”

Unlike many displaced families who make the potentially deadly journey together, Falah plans to leave his wife and 6-month-old daughter behind in Baghdad, hoping they can join him legally once he has settled.

The Iraqi government does not keep figures on the number leaving, but Joseph Sylawa, a member of the Iraqi parliament committee for migration and displacement, said the number is estimated to be as high as 1,000 a day.

“It’s a death blow,” he said. “Without its young people, Iraq will never be able to rebuild.” [Continue reading…]

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