Having arrived in Tripoli 17 years ago, Osman has provided shelter and support to more than 200 refugees as part of UNHCR scheme to assist the most vulnerable.
In 2003, Osman fled civil war in Darfur after witnessing armed men kill his father and loot his family’s property. Then aged only 19 and afraid for his life, he made it across the border to Libya on his own, leaving everyone he knew behind.
At first, he struggled to find work in the capital Tripoli, where he knew no one, but finally found informal work in the construction sector. Now 35, Osman remembers the desperation he felt as a newly arrived refugee in Libya and vowed to help others as they strived to build a life here.
Since 2016, the 35-year old has opened his home to families, single mothers, unaccompanied minors and people with serious medical conditions, hosting more than 200 refugees over three years in his sparsely furnished three-bedroom home in central Tripoli.
“I know the value of finding a helping hand.”
“Helping other people in need gives me a purpose in life”, Osman explained. “I was once a stranger in this city with no one to turn to, and I know the value of finding a helping hand.”
His efforts were part of a caregivers’ programme run by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, that places at-risk individuals with more established refugee volunteers until they are able support themselves.
The programme has become especially vital as the situation grows increasingly challenging for refugees and asylum seekers in the country. Ongoing conflict and instability since the 2011 uprising that removed Muammar Gaddafi has left them and others vulnerable to exploitation and abuse at the hands of armed groups and criminal networks.
Volunteers such as Osman, who despite the risks chose to stay in the war-ravaged nation rather than uproot himself again, can provide a safe place to stay as well as friendship and support to fellow refugees.
The most recent guests staying with Osman in the densely-populated neighbourhood where he lives were two young Eritrean women and their children, Hayat and her four-year-old son Zuhair, and Rahma and her infant daughter Almaz.
Due to the limited number of caregivers and the urgency of finding a shelter for the two vulnerable women, Osman was selected as the most suitable candidate. As with all participants in the caregivers’ initiative, UNHCR’s partners vet potential hosts and make regular monitoring visits to ensure that living conditions are adequate and guests feel comfortable and safe.
Hayat, 22, grew up in Ethiopia after leaving Eritrea when she was just four years old. After getting married, she and her husband decided to leave the country in search of a better future.
They arrived in Libya hoping to cross the sea to Europe and start a new life. But they were held captive by smugglers who demanded US$10,000 for their release – a fee they had no way of paying.
While in captivity, Hayat – who was pregnant – and her husband were regularly beaten. One day while trying to defend his wife, Hayat’s husband was killed in front of her.
“My life turned into darkness.”
After this terrible incident, the traffickers let Hayat go. Alone and disoriented, she walked for hours trying to reach the nearest town but was arrested at a security checkpoint for being undocumented and for having entered the country in an irregular manner.
She ended up in a detention centre run by the Libyan authorities for months, until UNHCR staff members visited the centre, registered her and advocated for her release.
“Since we left Ethiopia, my life turned into darkness,” said Hayat. “Losing my husband was the most difficult thing I’ve gone through. But today, my son gives me strength and hope to go on, even though there is little I can offer him in this country. I can’t even take him to school.”
Today, Hayat is one of more than 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers living in urban areas of the country. She is grateful to have met Osman, whom she regards as a big brother to her and her son Zuhair.
Together with Rahma and her daughter, the five spent time chatting about their experiences and what they left behind, but also about their hopes for the future. Their favourite moments were spent around the dining table, exchanging stories and jokes while sharing a meal.
“Hayat has been very brave.”
Thanks to the generosity of Osman and others like him, the caregivers’ programme currently provides shelter and support to dozens of refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR hopes to expand the number of hosts in order to accommodate more vulnerable cases.
Osman recently left the caregivers programme to work as a UNHCR community mobiliser, providing the community with information and advice about the assistance available and flagging up any specific cases requiring extra support to UNHCR and its partners.
Given his own experiences, Osman understands the difficulties people like Hayat face trying to get by in Libya, and is happy to have done what he can to help her find her feet.
“It’s extremely hard for a single mother to find work in Libya and to provide care for her child at the same time,” Osman said. “Hayat has been very brave.”
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK
The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.
Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.
Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.
Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.
“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.
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