Change comes from struggle. We shows the struggle towards the violated rights and freedoms by others body. By Behailu M.
With the recent BBC documentary on the abuses suffered by Ethiopian refugees in Yemen, you have to stop and reflect on the pattern that has developed in recent times. From the conflict in Bale in the 1960′s, to the exodus after the Ethio-Somali war in 77-78, earlier refugees faced their share of hardship travelling through harsh terrain, hostile territory, with very little to survive on. Once they arrived in countries like Somalia, and Djibouti, many were settled in refugee camps, while many went into the cities to find work and earn a living where they would learn the language and become part of society, before going to register themselves at the UN. During the reign of Siad Barre in Somalia, Oromo refugees fleeing Ethiopian government persecution settled in Somalia by the hundreds of thousands, some figures quoted put that number at over a million. While some would settle in Somalia, many would make their way to Saudi Arabia either with Somali national passports, or smuggled by boat to the coastal town of Jizan. This was in the late 1970′s and 80′s, and refugees found plenty of opportunity for settlement and employment although there was always the risk of being arrested at a random checkpoint and deported for those without working permits. Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Baz, one of the prominent Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia at the time lobbied the Saudi government to issue Oromo refugees working permits, citing their persecution in their home country. Unfortunately this program was eventually discontinued at the request of Oromo community leaders after it became a tool in a turf war between Oromo political factions. However, Oromos continued to emigrate, settle and work in the Kingdom while closely following the situation in their homeland. Eventually many went on to resettle in the west. Others found their way to countries like Egypt before finally resettling in europe.
Today things are quite different. With the global economic downturn and increased security due to international conflicts many countries have implemented tougher measures against immigration, or have closed their doors altogether. With poverty and unemployment on the rise we’ve seen societies shift towards intolerance, racism and xenophobia towards immigrants. Besides the official immigration policies, we’re also seeing another trend develop and that’s the exploitation and abuses that occur whenever you have a weak and vulnerable population without anobody to protect their rights. The human smuggling industry has become one of the more lucrative industries in the horn of Africa. If you do the math, when you have thousands of people being smuggled every month, each paying hundreds of dollars to their smugglers, you have an industry which generates hundreds of thousands of dollars every month. A large amount of money in that part of the world (or any part of the world for that matter). There is also the threat of armed gangs kidnapping and holding refugees for ransom as we’ve seen in Yemen, as well as in the Sinai dessert in Egypt (with the recent kidnappings of Eritrean refugees).
With the collapse of the governments in Somalia, and Yemen, both countries which many Oromo refugees pass through to enter Saudi Arabia (the land of milk and honey) the lawlessness fuels these industries. In places like northeastern Somalia (Puntland) and Yemen officials are bribed and security forces often become involved in acts of banditry themselves. With the capitalist mindset, xenophobic hatred and vulnerable state of the refugees, refugees become exploited and treated in the most brutal manner by armed gangs. They become slaves, concubines, hostages and anything that maximizes the gangs income and pleasure. A recent BBC documentary in Yemen exposed a camp belonging to an armed gang holding refugees for ransom. Not only had Yemeni authorities been aware of the camps, but they actively participated in the kidnapping operations. Underpaid government soldiers were employed by the gangs to round up refugees and hand them over to the gang. Men were beaten, women were raped, and the bodies of many unidentified hostages are regularly found dumped in the desert. Those who reached the UN’s safe camps wanted nothing more than to return to their countries.
If this issue continues I can safely say that the smuggling industry, which gave birth to the kidnap and ransom industry, will soon give birth to other crueler industries, and the world will continue to turn a blind eye. Nobody will solve our problems for us. The root of the problem is the issue causing us to leave our country in the first place. We have to fix our countries.