In 2015, Hassan made the difficult decision to migrate to Yemen from his home in Hararge, Ethiopia in search of a better life for him and his family.
“I was aware of the risks and dangers of being smuggled across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, and I left behind my wife and five children,” Hassan said,I hoped the risks would pay off and I could better support my family by sending money and eventually returning home with some savings.”
Hassan made contact with well-established migrant smuggling networks that said they would take him to Yemen, but first he had to meet them in Somalia. He left his home and joined a group of like-minded migrants. They moved clandestinely bypassing police check-points and immigration officials at the border crossing. Aside from occasionally hiding in trucks, Hassan made his journey on foot.
After finally reaching the coast of northern Somalia, all Hassan could do was wait for instructions from the smugglers. In early January, 2016, his group was ready to depart. A wooden boat gathered 106 migrants and departed for Yemen from a remote beach. All was well, until a malfunction with the boat’s engine left them stranded at sea.
When rough weather hit after a week of drifting, the boat capsized—leaving thirty six dead in its wake. Luckily, Hassan was one of the seventy people that survived. “Many people died,” Hassan said, “some of their bodies disappeared, and others were recovered. While the boat was stalled we received no assistance and didn’t see any other boats, despite our distress. We did not have a means of communication to call for help.” Eventually, other boats and government officials came to the aid of the survivors-- dehydrated emaciated and many needing medical attention.
IOM worked closely with the survivors and officials in Somaliland and Ethiopia to secure travel documents, basic assistance. Later, they provided transportation and reintegration support to Hassan and the other 63 migrants willing to return to Ethiopia. Through the window of one of the buses going bringing him back to Ethiopia, Hassan said, “I will never go back to Yemen and will tell everyone not to try irregular migration.”
Hassan intends to stay in Ethiopia with his wife and children and look for a job in Western Hararge. He said, “Despite the challenges of supporting my family with limited employment opportunities, it is much better than the hardship I went through in trying to reach Yemen.”