The Ultimate Dream: A Secure Income, A Secure Life

Published Date: 
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Aden – Like many young Ethiopians, 23-year-old Mohammed has dreamt of traveling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to find work and provide a good income to help his family and build a future for himself for years.

Unemployment, economic difficulties, drought and human rights abuses are among the factors that have driven hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians to migrate over the past decade.

They travel by boat over the Red Sea and then by land through Yemen on the way to KSA or neighbouring Gulf countries – favoured destinations because of the availability of employment.

Mohammed has taken the dangerous journey in an attempt to reach KSA a few times.

He first tried to travel to KSA three years ago but was unsuccessful. Instead, he found himself in Aden where he struggled to find a secure job, so he traveled back to his country.

Last year, Mohammed attempted the trip again, but his attempt failed for the second time when conflict and borders closed due to the coronavirus disrupted his journey. This time, he found himself stuck in Yemen.

“I knew the journey would not be easy from my first trip, but I had no choice. I needed to find a way to get to KSA to work and earn money to help my family,” said Mohammed.

“I was disappointed when I travelled to Sana’a and discovered from other Ethiopians that the borders had been closed. There was no chance to cross.”

Many migrants dream of escaping poverty by finding work as laborers, housekeepers, servants, construction workers and drivers.

An IOM medical staff measures Mohammed’s temperature in Aden.Photo: Majed Mohammed / IOM 2021

COVID-19 mobility restrictions have drastically reduced travel along this route in recent times. Roughly 138,000 people made the journey in 2019, compared with 37,500 in 2020.

After Mohammed failed to reach KSA, he went instead to Rada’ district in Yemen in hopes of finding work there.

“Working in the farms in Rada’ was the worst period in my life. I was beaten and many times I went to sleep hungry. I worked for five months until I got sick. I traveled to Aden for treatment but without money I could not find any help.”

Migrants face multiple dangers at every stage of their journey in Yemen, in particular health problems.

“I heard from friends that an organization can provide help and work for migrants. I went to them and they gave me a job cleaning the streets. The moment I received my payment I went to buy new clothes, food and medicine.”

A group of migrants gets ready to start the cleaning campaign supported by IOM in Aden. Photo: Majed Mohammed / IOM 2021

Mohammed had gone to the Migrants Response Point (MRP) where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) protection team provides cash for work opportunities, migrant registration, case management, foster family referrals and voluntary humanitarian return to migrants in Aden.  

“The Migrant Response Point is the most important place for migrants in Aden embrace. Here, we provide them with several services that make a huge difference in their life,” said Waleed Jailani, IOM Senior Protection Programme Assistant.

IOM with EU Humanitarian Aid instituted a cash for work programme in November 2020 to improve living conditions for stranded migrants in Aden, which continued throughout the first quarter of this year. This programme is providing 1,200 migrants, who have no income or will not be able to return soon, with the means to sustain themselves until a safe means of travelling home is available.

IOM, in coordination with local authorities, implemented cleaning campaign so that the migrants have a small income to buy the most basic items needed to survive, including food and other items.

This story was written by Majed Nadhem,  IOM Yemen Communications Assistant