Since March 2015, the situation in Yemen has deteriorated dramatically as fighting and violence have intensified. More than 65 000 people have arrived in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan after fleeing the crisis. Almost 30 000 were Somalis returning to their home country. With European Commission funding, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is helping these ‘returnees’ travel to their areas of origin in south-central Somalia and get settled again. On arrival, families are given essential items and hygiene kits. In Beletweyne, where we meet 27-year-old Quaraysh, Danish Refugee Council has provided 340 families with such support.
As one of the thousands of Somalis who have returned from Yemen to their area of origin over the past few months, Quaraysh, 27, is pleased to finally be home.
“I had travelled to Yemen from my home in Beletweyne, south central Somalia in 2010 in search of job opportunities,” she explains.
“At the time I was living with my family – including my younger brothers and sisters – and my father was not able to generate enough income to meet the family’s needs.”
So, along with some of her neighbours, Quaraysh decided to travel to the port city of Bossaso, Puntland in order to cross the Red Sea. After a difficult overland journey to Bossaso she reached Celaio port where she was able to take another boat to reach Yemen’s largest city Sana’a. The 200 people in Quaraysh’s boat had each paid people smugglers 200 US dollars for the crossing, which took 24 hours.
“I married a Somali man in Yemen and we had three children,” recalls Quaraysh.
“We lived in a small rented house in Aden where my husband and I worked as casual labourers in order to make an income. I used the small savings I was able to make to support my parents in Beletweyne. However a few months before fighting broke out in Yemen, my husband and I divorced.”
When the civil war exploded, Quaraysh decided to return to Somalia with her three children aged 4 to 8 years old. The family fled Yemen in May 2015. It took 24 hours to reach Bossaso, and from there they travelled on mini bus to Beletweyne. It was a long journey of about six days, but the family safely arrived in Beletweyne, where some of their relatives were already living.
With support from the European Commission, the Danish Refugee Council covered the costs of the necessary onward transportation allowance and bills, supporting 25 households such as that of Quaraysh to reach Beletweyne from Bossaso. These were families who were willing to return but were unable to do so due to lack of finances to support their travel.
The transportation allowance helped to support returnees to access a dignified and safe system of transport. They may not have made the journey otherwise and could have remained stuck in Bossaso.
“We were able to get food, water and accommodation during the journey thanks to the support we received from the Danish Refugee Council, which made the situation easier for us,” explains Quaraysh.
Following her return to Beltetweyne, Quaraysh now lives in a small rented house constructed from corrugated iron sheets and traditional sticks. She’s not receiving any support from her ex-husband.
“When I initially arrived, I felt like I was a burden on my relatives,” says Quaraysh. “My children and I were sleeping on a small mat and shared the cooking utensils with a neighbour. I felt hopeless.”
Luckily, as being part of the most vulnerable, Quaraysh was targeted among other beneficiaries to receive emergency support that included essential non-food items, as well as a sanitation and hygiene kit.
Like other returnees, Quaraysh was not able to bring anything with her from Yemen and had very limited opportunities available to provide for her children. Receiving basic household items and means to obtain food, water and emergency shelter was very much appreciated.
“In late August in Beletweyne I received useful items such as a kitchen set, a plastic drum and flask for water, and also a mattress and blanket” she explains happily.
“The support was really good and comprehensive and made an impact on our lives, as these items met our basic needs. There is a long way to go before I am independent, but I am feeling much more hopeful about the future.”