1 Family Torn Apart: Somali mother's dream life turns into nightmare

Telling the Human Story, 23 June 2011

© UNHCR/R.Gangale
Farhiya Mahamoud Gedi in her makeshift shelter at Warshad Galayda settlement for internally displaced people in south Galkayo, Somalia.

GALKAYO, Somalia, June 23 (UNHCR) Farhiya Mohamoud Gedi has not seen her children in the past 12 months. The 34-year-old had no choice but to leave them with her mother in the war-torn Somali capital, Mogadishu, in search of better work opportunities to feed her family.

"It was getting harder every day to provide for my two girls, Rahma and Fartun, together with my boy Abdirasak, as I have no husband," said Farhiya, who is divorced and has no regular source of income. "It was even worse to see my elderly mother, who cannot work as she is not strong enough, struggle to borrow food or money from well-wishers to at least feed the children. I had no choice but to go out and look for money to support my family."

She was told that there were more work opportunities in Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden. Farhiya left Mogadishu, headed north on a lorry ferrying goods, via Galkayo, and arrived in the sea port town of Bossaso.

"It was the most difficult decision I had to make. Being away from your children is not easy, especially when I left them in Mogadishu where it is not safe. I had heard of the dangers of going by sea but like any mother in the world, I knew I wanted to give my children a better life," she said.

For Farhiya to secure a spot on the only available boat to Yemen, she had to pay unscrupulous smugglers US$120, in return for three nights at sea in the Gulf of Aden on a small and overloaded boat without food. For her, it was worth the hardship as she dreamed of a better life in Yemen. However, she was in for a surprise when she arrived.

"I knew no one there. I had no place to stay, no food, just the few clothes I had managed to carry," she said of her life in Yemen. "Looking for employment was more difficult. You had to go through an agent who demanded payment once you secured a job. If they got a better offer from someone else, you lost the job. However, I struggled through different forms of casual labour."

The recent clashes in Yemen exacerbated her troubles. "It became even more difficult to keep a job as some days we could not leave our homes, for fear of being killed."

Realising that her dream life in Yemen had turned into a terrible nightmare, five months after arriving, Farhiya embarked on the frightening voyage again this time to go back home to her family. She settled in a makeshift shelter in Warshad Galayda IDP settlement for internally displaced people in south Galkayo, and is determined to bring her children and her mother to her new home.

"It's safer here than it is in Mogadishu and I'm sure I can get a good job to cater to my children's needs; much easier than in Yemen. It was a difficult experience being away from my family and worse still travelling dangerously by boat. No one should risk their life on a small overloaded boat trying to escape the violence," she said.

UNHCR believes that 1 Family Torn Apart By War is Too Many. The UN refugee agency's head of office in Galkayo, Grace Mungwe, knows well the dangers Somalis experience trying to reach Yemen.

"Farhiya is one among thousands of Somali women and men who, due to insecurity and lack of livelihood in south-central Somalia, put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers to cross the Gulf of Aden in search of better life opportunities in Yemen," she said. "Many lose their lives in the process. Experiences like Farhiya's are cautionary tales for all other potential migrants on the dangers they face on this journey."

Every year, tens of thousands of people, mainly Somalis and Ethiopians, cross the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa, hoping to find a better future in Yemen and other Gulf states. Many of them die along the way. UNHCR raises awareness on the dangers and the human rights violations involved in this migration movement.

Almost 60,000 internally displaced people have settled in 21 settlements in north and south Galkayo, most coming from different parts of south-central Somalia.

Somalia remains the country generating the highest number of refugees in the world, after Afghanistan and Iraq. Currently, more than 700,000 Somali refugees live in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.

By Faith Kasina in Galkayo, Somalia




UNHCR country pages

Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

International Migration

The link between movements of refugees and broader migration attracts growing attention.

Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

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do 1 thing

1 refugee without hope is too many. Every day, millions of refugees face murder, rape and terror. We believe even 1 is too many.

Asylum and Migration

Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

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