From Tragedy in Somalia to Safety in Serbia

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When Fahim Mudei (22) left his hometown of Mogadishu in Somalia less than three years ago, he could not have imagined that his journey would eventually take him to Serbia and that this is where he would wish to finally settle.  At the time, all he wished for was to save himself from the death threats he was receiving from al-Shabab, a militant organization intent on toppling the Somali government. He succeeded in saving himself, but his mother and brother paid the ultimate price.

Both were killed in terrorist attacks.

Fahim's mother was shot three years ago while she was on the street. The bullet hit her in the head and she fell into a coma. After a few days spent fighting for her life, she finally succumbed to her injuries and died in hospital. His brother, a bank officer, was killed at the beginning of this year in a major terrorist attack in the center of Mogadishu. He was killed by a bomb and his remains were never found.

“I left Somalia on the 8 of March 2015.  In Mogadishu I worked for a Turkish company.  I did several other jobs at the same time, but it was for my work that I began receiving death threats from the members of al-Shabab. I had a good life, but I did not feel safe. As the threats became more frequent and when it became clear that I could very easily lose my life, I decided to journey to Turkey where I had previously been a student and where I obtained my diploma in agriculture,” began Fahim as he recounted his story, three years on.

On account of his having worked for a Turkish company, he succeeded in obtaining a tourist visa and eventually arrived in Istanbul, from where continued on towards Izmir. From there, aided by smugglers and human traffickers, he boarded a boat and sailed towards the Greek island of Chios. He says he did not get any help in Turkey and was forced to leave. The first attempt to leave Turkey failed. He was arrested by the police, after which he spent two weeks in detention. After his second attempt to flee Turkey he managed to reach the Greek coast on a small boat.

"It was a small boat, and there were dozens of people on it. They were mostly families with children. It was dangerous, too many of us were on board and the sea was turbulent. I was afraid, but somehow we arrived alive. To this day I wonder at the courage I had at that moment to entrust my life and wellbeing into the hands of smugglers,” Fahim says.

He arrived in Greece in May of 2015 and thereafter in Serbia sometime around June of the same year. He was amongst the first groups of migrants and refugees to cross into Serbia via the Presevo border at the time when the so called ‘Western Balkan Route’ was still in effect.

“Two days upon my entry into Serbia, I was already placed in the Asylum centre in Krnjaca. At first everything seemed strange, I was unhappy on account of having lost my mother and brother, but over time I began to get used to life under this new set of circumstances. Serbia is the first country on my journey where I was given help, accommodation and food, for which I am immensely grateful. I got used to a new environment, a different climate, and many different people connected by the same pain. I began learning the Serbian language and thereupon Farsi and Urdu. There were more of us in the room, we spoke different languages, and that's why I began to learn their languages," recalls Fahim.

These newly acquired skills brought with them new opportunities for Fahim.  In the meantime, having received subsidiary protection in the Republic of Serbia, he began working, initially for Medicine du Monde and thereafter, as of the 1st of December 2017, for the International Organization for Migration in Serbia, precisely on the ‘Re-Health2’ project, financed by the European Union and being implemented in five regional countries, with a focus on the introduction of an electronic personal health record for migrants. He works as a cultural and health mediator and has the task of mediating the relationship between migrants and healthcare providers.

“I don’t intend to leave Serbia as this is my new home. I work for the IOM, I am happy and this job agrees with me. There was a time when I waited to receive assistance, and now find myself in a position to help others. I am happy to be of use to the community within which I currently live,” concluded Fahim.

His continued stay in Serbia will be further facilitated through the expected adoption of the new Law on Asylum.  This legislation will guarantee to those who have been granted subsidiary protection within the country, the same rights as have been afforded to those who have been granted refugee status and thereby also implies the right to further integration.