In Ethiopia, every year approximately 120 000 people decide to migrate. The Middle East and South Africa serve as the main regions of destination. Studies point to poverty, system failure, delinquency, unemployment etc. as the key push factors of youth migration in Ethiopia. However, problems arise if migrants undertake their trip using illegitimate means. “Illegal migration”[1] negatively affects the lives of migrants, host communities and so forth. To illustrate, “illegal migrants” risk homelessness, enslavement, sexual exploitation, etc.

Although this is a critical issue, research on effective intervention strategies to bring down “illegal migration” and its unwelcomed consequences, is lacking. Therefore, the presented study of Habtamu, et al. (2021) seeks to discover which contextually specific interventions are useful to minimise unsafe youth migration. More so, the study looks at whether people’s assessment of the effectiveness of intervention strategies is informed by background features such as sex, age, religion, educational accomplishment, occupation, and study site.

A blog post by Hannah Kay and Ine Van de Voorde

A visual overview of the study

[1] The authors have placed the term “illegal migration” in between brackets in order to highlight the conceptual problems embedded in this terminology. Nevertheless, we have chosen to use the term throughout the blog as the original research has used this terminology.

Analysis of methodology and methods

Part 1. Qualitative study - In the qualitative study, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions (FGD) were carried out. This methodology was selected to gain more in-depth understanding on what should be done to reduce unsafe migration and to identify overarching themes.

The respondents were selected through a multi-stage sampling method (Box 1), which took the following steps: first, eight migration hotspot areas in Ethiopia were selected on the basis of evidence from previous studies; second, one school was selected in each hotspot area; third, either in-depth interviews were carried out with school principals, heads of offices of local governments, a community representative and a religious leader, or FGDs were conducted with students, teachers, parents whom were related to the school (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Visualisation of steps of multi-stage sampling employed for FGDs

Part 2. Quantitative study - In the quantitative part of the study, the researchers investigated how the intervention strategies to reduce “illegal migration”, identified by the qualitative study, were considered relevant by the respondents (students, teachers, and parents). 1200 respondents rated the contextual relevance, achievability, and effectiveness of the presented intervention strategies.

To collect the data on sex, age, religion, etc. the researchers used a structured background characteristics questionnaire. The rates respondents gave on the intervention strategies, as well as the background characteristics were summarised using descriptive statistics. To understand whether a respondent’s sex, age, religion, etc. led to different judgements on the relevance of the suggested intervention strategies, the researchers used ANOVA- and t-tests.

Box 1.

multi-stage sampling method

What is multi-stage sampling?

Multi-stage sampling method (or multi-stage cluster sampling): Cluster sampling is a multi-stage approach: firstly, one samples a cluster (i.e., groupings of population units), and secondly, either clusters or populations units. As Bryman (2016) states: “with cluster sampling, the primary sampling unit (the first stage of the sampling procedure) is not the units of the population to be sampled but the groupings of those units”.

The decision to conduct an individual interview with some respondents (and an FGD with others) was made to create a safe and comfortable environment. The participants with different power hierarchies and experiences were therefore chosen to be interviewed separately. In addition, it was also more practical as it was difficult to bring participants from different workplaces together.The first data analysis took place through a thematic analysis, which occurred simultaneously with the data collection. This meant that emerging themes could be brought into the discussion during the remaining interviews and FDGs. Themes and categories continued to be coded after the finalisation of the data collection. Five overarching themes were then formed by grouping, regrouping, and linking codes:

  1. Creating awareness and bringing attitudinal/behavioural changes
  2. Creating job opportunities and providing training
  3. Fulfilling governmental and parental roles
  4. Improving the education system
  5. law enforcement and managing migration

Box 2.

Defining mixed methods

What is mixed methods?

a mixed methods approach conducts a social inquiry through the combination of different methods and paradigms. This approach considers that different paradigms and methods have different strengths. The combination of these methods would therefore guide and benefit the accuracy and depth of the study. (Kumar, 2018: 56-57)

Part 3. Reflection on the interdisciplinarity of the study

In this study, a mixed methods approach (Box 2) was chosen as the quantitative study builds on the findings of the qualitative study: first, this study qualitatively identified potential intervention strategies, and second, tested their contextual relevance and potential effectiveness with a survey study (Figure 2). 

The mixed methods approach was useful. The study’s survey instrument that was developed after the qualitative research has a high face and content validity as  evaluations were carried out by various expert meetings. Furthermore, the internal consistency reliability of the instrument is also reasonably good as the study was conducted in multiple areas in Ethiopia. This means it is likely to represent the Ethiopian context.

Figure 2. Visualization mixed methods approach

Research findings and conclusion

“What shall be done to reduce unsafe youth migration” is the question to which the study sought to find an answer on. Five intervention strategies were brought forward:

  1. Creating awareness and bringing attitudinal/behavioural changes
  2. Creating job opportunities and providing training
  3. Fulfilling governmental and parental roles
  4. Improving the education system
  5. law enforcement and managing migration

The first strategy focussed on convincing the youth that the country offers both employment opportunities and opportunities to improve their lives. Also, the respondents emphasised the need to raise awareness of the dangers and negative effects that “illegal migration” entails. Second, unemployment leads to poverty, consequently, respondents addressed the importance of expanding manufacturing industries. This strategy would, according to them, reduce the desire of youngsters to seek a job elsewhere. Complementary, the respondents assigned value to the provision of vocational and life skills training. Third, the participants highlighted the need for good policy implementation and monitoring of “illegal migration”. Besides the government, parents have a duty to inform their children on the danger of illegal migration and on the value of education and working. In relation to this, the fourth intervention strategy argued for improvement of accessibility and quality of university education, technical and vocational training. The last strategy to reduce “illegal migration” promoted the hunting down of illegal traffickers.

Overall, more than eighty percent of the respondents believed in the effectiveness of the strategies to reduce unsafe migration found in the qualitative study. Some interventions were found to be unique for the socio-cultural situation of Ethiopia such as the role of parents to advise their children and the value of improving the educational system.

Sex and religion did not affect the endorsement of the intervention strategies. Age and educational achievement, on the other hand, had an impact on the relevance respondents assigned to the creation of jobs and training and law enforcement and migration management. Older and higher-educated people proved more in favour of these interventions.


Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods. Oxford university press.
Habtamu, K., Minaye, A., Admas, F., Kotecho, M.G., Tibebu, A., Adigeh, Y., & Zeleke, S. (2021). Exploring potential intervention strategies to reduce unsafe youth migration in Ethiopia: A mixed methods study. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 1-28.
Kumar, R. (2018). Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. Sage.