IOM YEMEN: A BEACON OF HOPE: HAJER PROVIDES A REFUGE FOR STRANDED MIGRANTS IN YEMEN
17 August 2023
Hajer left her home in Ethiopia 17 years ago after she lost her husband to war. Desperate for a better life, she endured a dangerous journey through the desert and sea until she arrived in Yemen to find herself surrounded by overwhelming challenges.
She was alone, homeless and without any support – until one day when a group of other migrants found her and welcomed her to their home, providing her with food and shelter.
“I remember how I felt when I found support and solidarity from other Ethiopian migrants in Yemen. They became my friends, and eventually my new family,” recalls 68-year-old Hajer.
This was a transformative moment in Hajer’s life. After experiencing support to overcome her own difficulties, she made a resolute choice to help other stranded migrants.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 40,000 migrants have become stranded Yemen on their journeys. Many have experienced trauma and grave human rights abuses – including violence and trafficking – and are in need of a safe place to stay.
“In the first two years, I worked hard in various jobs to make a living, but at the same time I never forgot to assist other migrants I came across. I used to collect donations from other migrants to provide those in need with food and clothes,” said Hajer.
Ten years ago, IOM in Aden opened a Centre for vulnerable migrants in Yemen, in particular those with health issues or protection concerns who needed a safe place to recover and heal.
By this time, Hajer had become a renowned member of the Ethiopian community, she was recognized as the best person to take care of the center's residents.
“Now I run this Centre where migrants in need of medical treatment and psychological support can have a comfortable place to sleep and receive health, food and other basic services,” explains Hajer, who cares for approximately 30 migrants at a time.
“Mama Hajer receives migrants who are referred by the IOM health team, including those injured during their journey and traumatized individuals who need psychological support. They receive the necessary care in the center to ensure their quick recovery,” said Dr. Murad, an IOM Health Officer.
With support from the European Union, IOM recently opened a new and improved Community Based Centre with the capacity to accommodate more people in need.
“Hajer is like a mother to them, providing them with care and ensuring their well-being,” he added.
“I’ve been working with Mama Hajer for ten years. Her kindness makes me consider this place my home and the people we support my family. I feel very sad when they leave. Some return to their home country, while others continue their journey,” said Samira, a 38-year-old Ethiopian woman who also works at the Centre.
“Mama Hajer has a kind heart. I have been staying here for three months to recover from my injury. I have seen care and love in everything she does for us,” said Ahmed Salem, a 26-year-old injured migrant who is currently being cared for at the Centre.
Hajer changes people's lives through her humanitarian work and dedication. She has been working relentlessly for years to help people who, like her, have traversed the dangerous route to and through Yemen.
“I realized that everything is about human relationships, it’s more than a job for me. This is where I want to be, and I will continue to be here," concluded Hajer.
IOM’s humanitarian assistance and protection services in response to the needs of the returnees are aligned with the Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen 2023, which aims to address the needs of migrants in vulnerable situations and host communities in countries situated along the Eastern Migratory Route, located between the Horn of Africa and Yemen.