Jemmal Ahmed, 21, was recently deported back to Ethiopia after a nine-month stay in a prison in Yemen for illegally entering the country a few months earlier. His intention had been to cross over into Saudi Arabia to find work.
He shared his experience with IRIN:
“I dreamed of going Saudi Arabia since the moment my neighbours, in my home town, told me of the possibility of getting out of poverty after someone went there and worked for a year.
“I was broke within days of arriving in Yemen, as I paid most of [my money] to the people who took me from Ethiopia to Yemen and [spent] the remainder of my money on those who briefly hosted me in Yemen. They threatened to report me to the police if I didn’t.”
But he was still handed over to the police.
“Instead of taking me to Saudi Arabia, he [the broker in Yemen] took me straight to the police. At first I didn’t know what they were talking about since I don’t know their language. But the moment I entered a place where a lot of police were swarming around, I recognized that I was being detained.”
Ahmed and his friends had travelled for 15 days by road and ship, at a cost of about 9,000 birr each (about US$500), to get to Yemen. The money was paid to brokers who take irregular migrants out of Ethiopia to Saudi Arabia via Djibouti and Yemen.
“Al Amdulilahi [by God’s grace], I survived a deadly trip to Yemen by a small boat that took more than a hundred migrants on board, and then [afterward] an uprising that set the prison cell I was in on fire.”
Ahmed’s three friends were not as lucky. “The voyage took a toll on them. The first one died on the same day we arrived there [in Yemen] due to diarrhoea. I feel disheartened whenever I think of that day. There was nothing I could do about it other than watch him die.
“Later on, I was also told the two others passed away for reasons I still don’t know.”