Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Part Three: Somalis are desperate for a new life, but refugees face a dangerous road


They arrive in this coastal town, filled with pirates and smugglers, with dreams of sailing to Yemen.
A few months ago, as the war edged closer to his house, Ali Osman Ado took his pregnant wife and five children out of Mogadishu. A trader, he had saved enough money to move them to Bossaso - $135 from Mogadishu - and to pay smugglers to take him to Yemen, then Saudi Arabia.
"He told me when I get there, I will find a better life. I will come for you and the children," recalled Hassina Abubaker, 30, two months pregnant at the time.
He didn't know that Yemeni authorities, fearing that al-Shabab militants could infiltrate and join al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, were cracking down on Somali refugees, his wife said. He didn't know that Saudi Arabia had sent more than 9,000 Somalis back to Mogadishu. He didn't know the smugglers would be ruthless.
Three days after he left, his friends called her from Yemen.
"The ship was overcrowded. The crew started to throw people off the boat to make it more stable," said Abubaker, staring listlessly at the dirt floor of her tent. "My husband was one of them." Over the past three years, 1,066 migrants died or went missing - they were in boats that capsized or they were killed by smugglers, according to U.N. officials.
In another tent, Fatima Ali Omar held her baby. When he turns 1, she plans to go to Yemen because she heard they "treat refugees well." Eventually, she wants to be smuggled into Saudi Arabia to work as a maid. She knows that women have been raped along the way. She knows that many are forced into prostitution. She knows that if she complains, she will be deported.
"Nothing matters as long as I find a good life at the end of the journey," Omar said. "I will forget I was raped."


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