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Somali refugees flee one hell for another

After grueling escape from Somalia, refugees languish in Yemen camps.

Many make the perilous journey to Yemen.

“To Whom It May Concern,” began Mumina Burale, as she sat across from Jamal and dictated her letter.

“I am the mother of a family consisting of seven persons. None of the family has a job so I am alone who covers all family’s needs. In Yemen although we found some peace, but life is very difficult. No shining future for our children.”

Nothing shines in Kharaz, except sweat on bodies and the sun on cheap metal used by families to build walls around their patch of bare earth and broken stones.

Kharaz refugee camp is divided into 59 blocks each with 25 shelters. Every family gets their shelter and a latrine sunk into the ground. New arrivals enjoy five days of cooked food before it’s on to the monthly rations — 9 kilograms of wheat flour per person, 4.5 kilograms of pulses, 1.8 kilograms of rice, some oil to cook it in and some sugar to wash down the tea.

Six hundred families have been waiting in tents to be moved into shelters. But with only 250 new shelters to move into and no cash to build more, many won’t even have four walls to call home.

The frustration of 12 years living in Kharaz begins to show through in Mumina’s words.

“I am really fed up of such a life and do not know what to do or where to go. I am really very disappointed, so you are the only to whom I can complain and inform my life situation. So that, I write to you looking for your help. Please, I ask you to look at me with kind eyes and help me.”

Resettlement, a new life in America or Europe, is what the voices from the letters wish for and what most will never enjoy.

Adnan Ali woke up in a garbage dump after the “enemy of civil war” attacked his home, tied him up, killed his two brothers and gang raped his sister, before killing her as well.

“What to do now,” reads his letter, Jamal’s scratchy writing sloping off to one side as if exhausted. “My wife and some of my children are begging in Aden because of that I couldn’t feed them. And the other are washing cars at the streets their future lost. Consequently I am kindly asking to give me your cooperation in helping me kindly to return the future of my children.”

Jamal puts down his pen. His hand tired from all the writing. Always busy. He folds Adnan’s letter and throws it on the pile with those from Hawo, Mumina and all the others, waiting to be delivered to whom it may concern.