Voices on the Move

Ayan decided to return to Somaliland after being abused in Libya
September 05, 2013 Written by: Anja Simonsen,PHD Student,Denmark.Interview conducted in Hargeisa July 2013.

"I went without a single penny"

On March 5th 2013, 20-year-old Ayan decided to leave her home in Somaliland to seek the adventures of Europe that she had heard about through her friends settled there. She however had no knowledge of the dangerous journey awaiting her and the difficulties she was about to face. After ending up badly injured both physically and psychologically in Libya she decided to return back home. ‘I realized that the dignity I have here in my homeland and the dignity I met in other countries was not the same.’

I wanted to develop myself
“I was at secondary level when I decided to leave. One factor of leaving was to develop myself. Even if I completed an education here in Somaliland I could not get a job because of the high percentage of unemployment among young people in this country. I was hoping to go to Europe and get a job there with a high salary. I also heard about Europe through my friends living there who successfully made the journey through the desserts of Sudan and Libya and then crossed the Mediterranean Sea. I decided within a night to leave and the next morning I went. I sponsored myself from Somaliland to Addis Ababa. When I arrived there I went to the areas where the human smugglers are based, who are connected all the way from Addis Ababa to Libya. These smugglers don’t need money before you reach Libya so I went without a single penny in my pocket.”

Through the dessert of Sudan
“We left from Addis Ababa at 3 pm and we arrived at the border between Ethiopia and Sudan at 5 am in the morning. Then we started walking which lasted 5 days and 10 hours. We were misled before starting this long walk. The smugglers told us that the walk would take 30 minutes so we did not try to bring food or water. On the way a pregnant lady died. We tried to bury her but the smugglers said that now we should just think of ourselves. 3 men were beaten for trying to bury her and told that they would be killed if they continued to ask for the permission to bury their fellow people. We were 56 people in this group, 20 of us being women. While walking through the dessert of Sudan we met two kinds of soil. One consisted of white sand which was very hot and the other of black mutt which we would sink in to. At this time we were very weak. One lady from the group sank down in the soil. They tried to drag her up but in this attempt to help her, one leg beneath the knee was cut off and she later died of her injuries. The smugglers did a test to see if people were still alive. They would put some kind of drug on your body. If you moved they knew you were alive.”  

Leaving for Libya
“We were transported in 4 wheel drive vehicles through the dessert towards Tripoli in Libya. Immediately when we started our journey to Libya other gangs on motorbikes chased us. From 8 pm until 3 am in the morning they were chasing us to kidnap us from the smugglers we were with. The smugglers on the motorbikes are known for selling human organs while the smugglers we were with are known for taking money, not human organs. The smugglers we were with tricked the smugglers on the motorbikes by secretly unloading one car in the dark and then coming back for us 2 hours later when they had shown to our stalkers that their cars were empty. At this time 11 people had died on the way. We continued our journey. After many obstacles and the loss of 19 more passengers because of an accident we were brought to Mugafe – the boss of the smugglers known as the one who never misses.”

Libya – 22 people left
‘We were now 22 people left. 4 more people had died. In this camp the men were tortured by electric chock and we the women were raped. At this time, I had an infected wound in my stomach because I had an operation before migrating and I was dehydrated. The smugglers provided me with some treatment. At this point the smugglers had requested the ransom from my family to release me. My family paid and I was therefore allowed to leave the camp together with another woman. Both I and the other woman decided that the further we go, the more risky it will be for us and my family advised me to come home so we decided to return home. When I reached from Tripoli to Khartoum, my family arranged for me to be admitted to the hospital there as I was very sick. When I became better physically I became choked psychologically. After my recovery I continued my journey back to Somaliland.”


“By the grace of God I survived this and it is now part of my experience. Today I want to go to the University to study computer science. Even now if I got a legal visa I would not go. I will stay and die here in Somaliland.“

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