In search of a better life around half a million migrants, many of them from the Horn of Africa are estimated to be stranded in Yemen. With the help of smugglers they cross the sea in a perilous journey hoping to reach one of the wealthy Gulf countries once they land in Yemen. But on Yemen’s shores they remain in the hands of smugglers and their stories take a very different turn: Lejla – 16 years old (Haradh)
At noon on a very hot day in May, a group of Ethiopian women sought refuge at the IOM Migrants Response Centre in Haradh in Yemen’s north-west, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. They had just been freed by the police from smugglers while being transported on a vegetable truck. Among them, a 16 year old girl, Lejla *, who immediately slumped in a corner of the room looking exhausted, afraid and desperate. All the women were allowed to stay at the IOM’s Centre where they were provided with immediate medical care, protection from the smugglers, psycho-social support, food and shelter.
When asked about her story, Lejla said that she had been sexually abused by one of the smugglers and that now her and her family’s honour was inevitably compromised. Lejla also shared her consternation at having been born in such a horrible world, full of evil people. After a medical screening and specific medical care to help her recover from the physical consequences of the abuse, Lejla was also assisted with psycho-social support to overcome the emotional violence endured.
Though Lejla felt safe at the IOM Migrants Response Centre and showed clear signs of improvement, she wanted to join the other women who had decided to leave the camp after two days. Two weeks later she found her way back to the IOM Centre, even more desperate, and with a strong desire to return back to Ethiopia. Lejla remained at the IOM Centre until her Assisted Voluntary Return request could be processed. She returned to Ethiopia with the support of the IOM offices in Yemen and Addis Ababa. Upon her arrival in Ethiopia, Lejla enrolled immediately in IOM Ethiopia’s Reintegration Programme and received life-skills training and an economic support to start her new life.
*not her real name
Iskinder – 20 years old (Aden)
Iskinder * left his home in Ethiopia in April 2013 and was smuggled from Bale (Djibouti) to Al Mocha, a coastal town in Taizz governorate, Yemen. Upon landing, he was taken by armed smugglers to an enclosed camp. Since he had no money and was unable to reach his family in Ethiopia to ask them for financial support, the smugglers tortured him for four days in a row. On the fifth day, weak, sick and almost dying, Iskinder was thrown onto the street outside the camp. Once he managed to regain enough strength, he started walking towards Aden city, relying on the help of Yemeni citizens for food and water. After several days, Iskinder reached Basateen district, a poor neighbourhood in Aden, where he was registered by IOM. He received food, water, hygiene kits, clothes and medical support. Iskinder is currently wandering around Basateen district, without shelter, always on the lookout for a chance to return to Ethiopia.
ECHO supports IOM with €2 million to assist at least 10 000 vulnerable migrants – many of whom are stranded at the border with Saudi Arabia – with shelter, health care, protection, as well as water and sanitation assistance.
By IOM Yemen