When Abdukadir arrived in the U.S. in May 2010, he was barely in his 20s, but had already come to know well what it’s like to be afraid and unwelcome. He’d been fending for himself in Somalia since he was a teenager. His father left the family to seek a better life when Abdukadir was a child and soon after, his mother died.
Still a teenager he fled the turmoil in Somalia to Libya and boarded a small boat with 25 other men and women bound for Malta. The trip across the Mediterranean was expected to take a couple of days, but on the second day the motor died. The small overcrowded boat drifted with no land in sight, swamped constantly by waves.
The story another man told, as they sat in the small boat – their fates tied together– hardly brought comfort. The man had tried to escape to Italy in a boat not unlike the one they were in. That boat never made it and most of the refugees died on the way. Abdukadir was sitting in oil and fuel as he listened. Years later, he recalls the rush of fear and despair when he realized that they were out of food and water.
Finally, they spotted a fishing boat. They believed they were saved, but there was no offer of help. Those on the other boat motioned the voyagers away. They sprayed hot water on Abdukadir and the other frightened refugees looking for a safe harbor. Abdukadir expected to die. The boat’s driver didn’t want to wait and tried to jump into the water, but the others subdued him. Then they collapsed back in the boat, too weak to sit up, and waited to die.
In the midst this despair, a woman gave birth. The others wrapped the baby the best they could in their clothes. Finally, on the third day, another fishing boat arrived. This time, they were saved. The authorities were notified and the refugees were taken to local detention centers.
After spending several months in the detention facility, Abdukadir was released because, at 17, he was still a minor. He then was sent to a place where he says, “18 people lived in one room.”Though they sometimes went to English lessons, they “mostly stayed inside, especially at night, because it was too dangerous.” Once Abdukadir was beaten up while walking outside and once he was sprayed in the face with something that “burned” by a group of people as their car drove slowly past him. Talking about his life in Malta, he says “I tried to live in Malta, but I couldn’t.”
Abdukadir arrived as a refugee in Seattle through the IRC and now has a chance to start over and build a safe and stable life. Through the IRC he has his basic needs met and access to the services he needs. He realizes that an education is necessary to succeed, but a job is necessary to live. He is looking for his first job in the U.S. and looking forward to attending school in the near future.
Return to the IRC in Seattle