“You will rarely see a Togolese leave his country. If he leaves, it means he had a good reason to do so. When I first reached Niger ten years ago, I wasn’t planning on staying. I thought I would continue my journey onwards to Libya or Algeria, but I eventually decided to stay and work as a mechanic.
I soon realized that I wasn’t the only Togolese in Arlit so I got in touch with the mayor and asked him if we could create a Togolese association. Once he agreed, we officially announced it on the radio and managed to assemble close to 200 Togolese brothers and sisters. I have been the president of this association ever since.
One day, I heard IOM was looking for third-country nationals to work as community mobilizers. In the beginning, I was a bit nervous, but the colleagues were very supportive. They told me: “Go on, Abba! It’s your job now!”.
Migrants sometimes think we are there to force them to go back so they can be a bit apprehensive in the beginning until they understand we are only there to talk and that the assistance is voluntary.
I enjoy discussing with migrants and understanding the reasons that pushed them to leave their countries. Sometimes, they just want to be heard, and I am more than happy to do it.
I have learned a lot about migration and about how to communicate since. In the beginning, I used to easily get discouraged when migrants refused to talk to me, but now I know how to better approach them.
I keep in touch with a lot of the migrants I have referred to the transit centre. A lot of them call me once they are back to thank me. It’s encouraging to hear words like this after meeting them in the ghettos and seeing the situations they were going through. A lot of Togolese sisters have left the ghettos in Arlit thanks to our discussions.
I go back to Togo every year, and nowadays I go back with my head held up high! We will see what happens with time, but for now, I am happy with my life in Niger.”
IOM’s outreach activities through its four Orientation Offices in Niger are supported by the European Union and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), under the Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM).