Testimonies gathered in the detention centre for migrants in Sana'a, Yemen. June 23-25, 2013

August 2, 2013

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Testimonies gathered in the detention centre for migrants in Sana'a, Yemen.  June 23-25, 2013 © Anna Surinyach

TAJU HASSANE TURDO. 31 years old.

I had a good and beautiful life. I supported my family in peace and in health. My children didn’t have problems getting enough milk. They didn’t have any kind of problems. But I wanted big things and I lost what I had.” Taju was deceived by smugglers when he left Ethiopia. "The journey will be easy and once in Saudi Arabia, you will get a lot of money," they said. He didn’t listen to his wife's advice, sold off some of his oxen cheaply, and hit the road. He arrived in Addis Ababa by bus and from there went to Dire Dawa, in eastern Ethiopia, where the smugglers met him.

 “Before we left that place, they asked us for money and told us to call families. Our families sent the money for us. Then we left the country”. From Ethiopia to Djibouti and then, by boat to Yemen. “The smugglers of the boats took us one over one in the boat. If anybody spoke, they were beaten in the back. They did bad things to the women. While one smuggler was steering the boat, another raped a woman. Then they switched, and the first driver raped the same woman again”

After we reached the coast of Yemen, we met a smuggler who was waiting with a gun.

He asked for money or for relatives who could transfer money. If you said you didn’t have any, he would crucify you; beat you”. After days of torture, Taju and his companions were released without any ransom paid. The group reached Saudi Arabia, but they were captured by Saudi soldiers and abandoned in the desert. They walked for three days until they reached the main road and from there went to Sana’a. “I want to go back in one piece. I don’t want to lose my eye, or my hand that God gave me. I don’t want to lose it”.

 SHUKUALAH HASSEN ABDULSELAM. 35 years old.

Shukualah left Ethiopia in December with eight companions. Between Ethiopia and Djibouti, they slept in the mountains, on the naked earth, without food or water. During this journey, they saw people die of hunger. When they reached Yemen, they were held captive by dealers for a month and were tortured by them. “At the sea, we took a boat at 8:00 PM and went into Yemen at 2:00 AM. Here we have big problems. Here there are bad people. They took us to their camp and they started beating us, breaking hands and hitting our bodies. They said, “Transfer money.” One traveller who has family in Ethiopia was released after paying. If you didn’t pay, it was death for you. They broke my hand, hit me in the back. My friend was beaten there. He lost his body. And we were held for a month”.

After this, they survived by begging. They worked to pay other dealers who promised to take them to Saudi Arabia, but they were fooled. They tried to enter Saudi Arabia several times on their own, but the Saudi soldiers hit them. Finally, they decided to go back home. In Sana’a, they went straight to a police office and they begged to be arrested and taken home. They have just entered a detention centre.

 “We went to a police office and crossed over directly so they would arrest us. We went there by our own free will and entered at 10 PM. Since we carried our clothes in this kind of bag, they caught us. They asked us where we were going and we said we wanted to go back home, back to Ethiopia. Since we didn’t understand their language, we tried to cry. They asked us why we were crying and we said: “Because we have no way of getting back home. We are migrants and we’ve been running from here to there like dogs. It’s better to go back home than to sleep on the streets. We will work in the fields before we lose all our strength”.

RUMANA MOHAMMED SIRAJI. 25 years old. 

I have seen with my eyes how life is in Yemen, so how can I let someone who wants to come to Yemen leave? How can I leave it?” Rumana left Yemen with her husband and some neighbors four-and-a-half years ago. They wanted to get to Saudi Arabia to improve their lives. These years in Yemen have not been easy. As soon as we reached the country, Rumana had a medical problem with one of her arms and has not been able to recover. With two small children aged 4 and 1 years old, the family had no resources to move on, so the husband decided to try his luck in Saudi Arabia. “I don’t want to die here. Also my husband is not with me. My husband went to Saudi Arabia. Did they catch him on the road? Where is he? I don’t know. Is he dead or alive? I don’t know.”

 Some Yemenis who were helping Rumana told her that, from the detention center in Sana’a, she could manage to go back home. She lived in poor conditions outside the detention center in Sana’a until she was finally admitted. “My children are going through a tough situation. We have great problems. The best thing about being here is that we’re not exposed to the cold weather.”

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