With a wary smile eleven year-old Aisha began to describe her family’s journey from Somalia, “we had to walk for a long time across mountains…that part made my legs hurt”. Aisha, her eight siblings and mother left their troubled hometown of Merka and arrived on Yemen’s Red Sea Coast at the start of this month. Shortly after registration by the Danish Refugee Council, Aisha and five of her brothers and sisters were enrolled in school in Kharaz refugee camp. For the first time in three years, they were able to join other children and attend classes; their excitement as they swapped classroom stories was evident and contagious.
Children – A steadily increasing motivation for migration to Yemen
Aisha’s mother, Warda, explains that the decision to leave their home in Merka was planned over several months and motivated by the need to secure a stable future for her children. “They are my life’s work and the situation was getting worse. I was worried that my sons might be forced to join the conflict,” she revealed. Reports that young girls in Merka were being forced into marriage convinced her and her husband it was time to leave. They sold their home and for months took on any extra work they could find to raise the funds to leave.
Warda and her husband decided to travel separately to increase their future options; he would travel to Libya and she and the children to Yemen. Three months after her husband had left, Warda received a phone call, the boat her husband had been on had capsized and he had not survived. She admits, “the hardest part was telling the children, but I knew that I had to be strong for them”. Warda and the children left Merka soon after and, despite a long journey, arrived safely in Yemen. “I just want my children to get a good education while we wait for the situation in Somalia to get better,” she utters whilst busily getting the kids ready for the family portrait about to be taken.
The desire to protect their children and provide an opportunity for a better life has seen increasing numbers of Somali families fleeing their homes and travelling to Yemen. In 2010, 2335 families were registered by DRC representing a 46% increase in family arrivals since 2009.
* Named changed for protection reasons.
* The story is related to the month of December; figures are as of 31st December, 2010.
By DRC Yemen
Photo by Cassandra Mathie