Testimonials from Trafficking Survivors
My name is Fromsa. I am a 23-year-old liberated slave from Djibouti.
We have seen recently in the news cases of slavery in Libya which revolted all of us. But what about the invisible slave whose path we have probably unknowingly crossed in the streets of Djibouti? I was one of them.
I arrived at the NGO Caritas early October 2017. I came to the main gate and stood there in silence. I did not ask for anything. I simply stood there under a tree, waiting for someone to make eye contact with me and to engage with me.
A few days later, I began to share my testimony with Caritas. My story was not an easy one to share, it involved acts of torture, imprisonment, escape attempts, chains and more. I showed them the ugly scar on my skull: a marker of the nightmare I had lived through. In truth, I have been living as a slave.
Three years earlier, as a 20-year-old, I left Ethiopia with the dream of pursuing a better life. Like many others, I had dreamed of finding my fortune in the Arabic countries. And, like many others, my dream was shattered in a succession of disasters.
From my Oromo region, I had taken the direction to Djibouti, sometimes crossing the desert by foot, sometimes getting a ride on an Ethiopian truck. From Obock, in the north of Djibouti, I found a boat to reach Yemen, navigating upstream to all these victims of war who think about one only thing: fleeing this destroyed country.
What I hoped, was to finally reach Saudi Arabia where, I thought, I would finally discover happiness. But, I discovered only pain. Once I was spotted in Yemen, an easy victim, smugglers took me and entrust me to another group. This group brought me into an isolated area far from the village and required me to “reimburse the costs paid in advance for the journey” to Saudi.
Unable to pay anything, I was quickly enslaved and forced to work day and night to honour my “debt”. Just like that, I was entrapped. For many months, I was no longer a human. I became an object. Chained, abused, tortured. One day when I was not able to work as hard my jailers hit me on the skull. This open wound was not treated, and the infection spread through my body, leaving me temporarily paralysed.
This paralysis meant I was no longer useful. My “masters” decided to substitute me. I was lead to the Djiboutian coastline and thrown on a beach. I was able to reach Djibouti-city, and found a shelter for a short period among the Ethiopian community before finally coming to asks for help at Caritas.
Now I will travel back to my family in Ethiopia. I am currently under psychiatric care, thanks to support from the IOM.
Many traumas will never leave me, but I have my freedom. A fragile freedom, but one which deserves to exist.