Voices on the Move

Tens of Thousands of Ethiopian fathers have similar stories. This is not a photo of Jilo but another Ethiopian migrant in Saudi Arabia.
October 02, 2014 Written by: Noela Barasa/RMMS

"In Ethiopia, I was unable to find a job and feed my family"

Jilo Mohammed* comes from East Harage, Ethiopia, Fadis district. He is a father of 2 and left Ethiopia 3 years ago because of poverty.

We walked mostly by night
“I travelled from Fadis district, to Harar, Babile, Jijiga and then crossed the Tog Waajale border crossing to Somaliland. From Somaliland, I walked with 4 others to the Loyaade border crossing to Djibouti. We walked all night with asphalt as our guide. During the day we ate wheat flour and relied on children we met for directions. We walked from Loyaade to Djibouti for many days by night through mountainous region.

In Djibouti
We stayed in the broker’s house for 3 days before he assisted us to go to Obock in turns. In Obock, we waited for 6 days for the boat that would take us to Yemen. On the 6th day we walked to the departure point but there was no boat so we had to wait 9 more days for a boat to come. We did not have enough to eat or drink while we waited. On the 9th day, 2 boats arrived at the departure point but one of the boats had a faulty engine. The broker told us to board the boat with the faulty engine

Sea crossing
One hour into our sea voyage the boat was intercepted by the Djibouti military police or coast guards, and towed towards the Djibouti-Eritrean border. There were 44 people on the boat, 15 of them women and girls. Some of the women were sexually abused by the brokers and the police or coastguards that had intercepted the boat. We tried to defend them but we were beaten. There seemed to be a negotiation between the brokers and authorities at some point. The vessel was released and we were taken back to the Obock departure point. We waited for 11 days for another boat, surviving on wheat flour and very little water. All the migrants we were waiting with had diarrhea as a result. On the 11th day a new boat came and the broker bribed the authorities before they let us embark on the voyage. We travelled for 7 hours to Yemen.

In Yemen
When we reached Yemen, Abdulfayi a well-known hostage taker kidnapped us demanding a ransom of USD 100. I told Abdulfayi I did not have money. My friend in Saudi Arabia sent the money to Adulfayi using the Hawala. I was released and walked to Al Kharaz refugee camp but there was tribal conflict in Yemen so I did not stay at the camp. I continued walking for 15 days begging for food and assistance along the way before I reached Aden. In Aden, a Good Samaritan gave me and other migrants a lift in his car to Radaa. In Radaa, I worked in a khat farm before moving to Sanaa where I stayed for 9 months washing cars. When I had saved enough money, I left for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The end of the road
In Jeddah, I was detained on arrival and deported to Ethiopia after a week. I spent USD 500 to reach Saudi Arabia.

What now
I was in the process of attempting my journey again, but I am now stuck in Somaliland washing cars. My wife wants me to go back home so I am seeking voluntary return from Somaliland to my village in Ethiopia. I hope I can find a job or start a small business back home.”

*Jilo Mohammed, not his real name was encountered at the Migrant Response Centre in Hargeysa, Somaliland. He was seeking assisted voluntary return to his village in Ethiopia.

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