Hear our Voices

Africa

Yonathan Habte, trafficking survivor: "At least if I died, it wouldn’t go on"

In March 2012, Yonathan Habte*, then 26, decided to flee Eritrea where he had evaded military service and was facing jail. With a background in computer engineering, he was confident he could make a life in another African country. Instead, he was kidnapped near the Sudanese border and trafficked to Egypt, where he barely survived three months in two different camps in the lawless Sinai region, near the Israeli border. He talked to IRIN over the phone from Sweden.
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Martha Anger, refugee from South Sudan: “They opened fire on us”

Since widespread conflict broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013, following what the government called a “failed coup attempt”, the UN estimates that some 413,000 people have been internally displaced, with thousands of others fleeing into neighbouring countries. The total number of people displaced is likely higher, as aid agencies have limited information outside the main population centres, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
full testimony

Ahmed Omar Isaak, Somali migrant: "I never dreamed I would end up in the sea"

Ahmed Omar Isaak, 31, fled the conflict in his home country of Somalia in January 2012. His intention was merely to move to a place of safety, but that proved much harder than he had imagined. Over the next 16 months, he travelled nearly 5,000km in trucks, buses, boats and the boot of a car, enduring detention, beatings and being stranded in the Sahara desert. He told IRIN about his journey over the phone from Malta.
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Asia

Ferdinand Quieta, “We did not know water could kill”

Two months ago, when it was nearly 7a.m., 21 members of a family were gathered in the home of the 84-year-old family matriarch on Leyte island in the central Philippines, to protect themselves from a “storm surge” arriving up the coast. None of them knew what this warning meant. They understood wind damage from typhoons, but not the fatal combination of wind and water.
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Shing Ha Ling, Myanmar: “Poverty keeps us down”

Even as a child, Shing Ha Ling, 21, knew that her only way out of poverty would be through education, but she was forced to abandon her studies halfway through secondary school in her home region of Chin State, western Myanmar. Now, with only patchy income to support herself, her husband, and their 18-month-old son in Ngon Laung village, a two-hour motorbike ride across rough terrain from the closest town, Kanpetlet, she faces mounting debt.
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Irene Icao, typhoon survivor: "I lost all five of my children"

Almost a week after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the eastern-central Philippine city of Tacloban, Irene Icao, 27, is still very emotional as she recalls in vivid detail the last seconds of the lives of her five children: Russel, 8; Joji, 6; Kent, 5; Mayjoy, 2; and one-year-old Sherly.
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Middle East

Omar Farooq, Iraq: “It is like the fire is getting closer”

Security analysts say identity-based assassinations, kidnappings and death threats in Iraq – a trade mark of the sectarian violence of 2006-7 - have been quietly on the rise in recent months. Here is one man’s story.
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Samer Fanari, "We have to use illegal ways"

Samer Fanari, 27, defected from the Syrian army a year and a half ago and crossed into Turkey with nothing but his military tags. His plan was to travel to Sweden where his mother lives and apply for asylum, but he only got as far as Greece. He spoke to IRIN about his experiences.
full testimony

Ahmad, Palestinian refugee from Syria: “I feel we are double refugees”

For three weeks now, the Lebanese government has refused entry to Palestinian refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. Ahmed, 28, tells IRIN his story of being stuck in a conflict zone.
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