Johannesburg, South Africa
Mohamud Mohamed Ali, 21, was a high-school student when he fled the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in June 2009, in fear of being forcibly recruited into Al-Shabaab. His dangerous journey ultimately took him to South Africa. He spoke to IRIN about his experience:
"I was almost 18 when I decided to leave. My father supported my decision because he saw that a lot of young men from the city were being forced into armed militias. He was afraid for me and I wanted to leave to avoid being caught but I also thought that I could find a better life outside.
"In June 2009, I left Mogadishu by road to come to Kenya; we had to avoid a lot of militia roadblocks because they were removing young men from the lorries going into Kenya. At one point we were stopped at an Al-Shabaab checkpoint and I pretended I was the driver's assistant.
"In Nairobi I met other young Somalis and we decided to pool our resources and go to South Africa. I first went to Mombasa where a 'Mukhalas' [facilitator/smuggler] told me he could get me into Mozambique and from there walk into South Africa but I had to pay US$700. The money was supposed to cover all expenses of getting to Mozambique, including dealing with security forces in all countries.
"I went to Tanzania and from there I was put on a boat with 200 other Somalis to Mozambique in September 2009. The man never told me we were going by boat. I was terrified as I had never been on a boat but he told me the crossing would only take few hours - it took us almost four days. We ran out of food and water was almost finished when we reached the coast. On the fourth night, they dumped us on the beach and said we were now in Mozambique. Luckily, we were found by security forces who took us to a refugee camp.
"Life in the camp was hard. We only ate once a day, the shelter was poor but it was better than being on a boat for four days and nights. After a few weeks, I walked out of the camp and met some Somali businessmen in a town called Bemba. They gave me some money and I started my way toward South Africa. In Mogadishu I had heard so many stories about South Africa and how different and better it was from the rest of Africa.
"I finally arrived in South Africa in November 2009. I immediately got a job with Somali businessmen in Soweto. I was a shop assistant and at first it was fine but then we were regularly attacked and robbed by local gangs.
"No one did anything to stop these gangs. On 6 June 2011, a group of armed men attacked our shop. They took everything, money and everything else. I was hit twice by bullets but no one took me to the hospital. I lost a lot of blood and by the time I was brought to hospital I was unconscious.
"After 15 days in hospital I decided to leave South Africa. I had left my home country because I did not feel safe and here I was in a foreign country where I was not safe. So I began my journey back. I felt defeated and that I was back to square one but I did not regret leaving South Africa. I want to tell young Somalis, 'please don't go through what I went through'.
"Unfortunately, such is the life of a young Somali, they will do anything to escape. We have nothing in Somalia and nothing outside. It is as if we have been abandoned by everyone in the world."
- Provided by Integrated Regional Information Networks.
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