“I lost everything,” Masara says, as she struggles to recount the most traumatic events, and witnessed the death of her three children. 27-year-old Ethiopian woman, husband, and children – Aziza, five; Rashar, three; And Ikram, two – and at least 55 other migrants and refugees were on a boat controlled by smugglers across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen to the Horn of Africa via Djibouti, on April 12.
They were very young. The sea was so rough. ”
Crammed into the dead of night, the ship capsized under the weight of its occupants. Sixteen children, including Masra, and at least 44 migrants and refugees drowned under the sinking boat. She and her husband, Abdel Basset, were only two of the 14 who survived.
Speaking through an interpreter, Misrah mustered strength and courage to describe the moments preceding the tragedy. “When we got close to the shore of Djibouti, the boat started to collapse,” she recalls. “My children were asleep when the boat capsized. I had Ekram in my arms. I knew I could swim. This is how I survived. Unfortunately, it was not the case for my children. They were very young. The sea was very rough.”
Masra swam alone to the beach, and with the help of a driver passing by, she made her way to Obock, Djibouti, where she met staff from the IOM’s Migrant Response Center. Later, they also helped locate my husband, who, fortunately, has returned to Ethiopia.
“The staff are looking after me, trying to reassure me. I would like to see my mother. She is the only one who can console me now.”
The plight of illegal immigrants
In 2012, Masara left her home in Dardawa, Ethiopia, to find work. “I wanted to take care of my family, my mother and my siblings,” she explains. I managed to travel to Djibouti where I worked as a maid. Thanks to the money I earned, I was able to afford to travel to Yemen by boat. “
Thousands of migrants from Ethiopia make the same journey through Djibouti to Yemen every year, hoping to reach Saudi Arabia, where there are better job opportunities and higher incomes than returning home. Others, like Masara, intend to stay in Yemen where, before the conflict and the current pandemic, there were opportunities for migrant workers. Historically, there has always been a back and forth movement between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
Misrah slowly built a new life in the city of Aden, finding work as a cleaner. In 2014 she married Abdul Basit and they started a family. Masara says: “I loved my life in Yemen.” When Maysara’s mother fell ill in Ethiopia, she felt compelled to return and take care of her. Her husband was worried about Masrah’s safety, hesitating to travel alone; Ultimately, they decide to travel together as a family.
Like most unregistered migrants in the region, they did not have official or official residency documents in Yemen or papers required to return to Ethiopia, and they had to pay smugglers $ 400 to travel from Yemen to Djibouti by boat, the first leg of the journey to Ethiopia. Often times, this trip can cost much more.
IOM Djibouti staff in Egypt provide trauma counseling and support, and work with the International Organization for Migration in Ethiopia to help her return home to reunite with her husband and mother.
“Before I leave Djibouti, I would like to bid farewell to my children. I would like to have the opportunity to mourn for them at the grave before I return to Ethiopia.
She will continue to receive advice from the International Organization for Migration in Ethiopia, along with Abdel-Basit, support to reintegrate back into their community and start rebuilding their lives. But Masra says the heartbreaking loss of her three children, Aziza, Rashar and Ikram, will never leave. “I want migrants in Yemen to understand that the journey is risky,” she says. “I am alive, but I feel dead.”