1990s >> Abdullah Dirir Hersi >> Somalia

Abdullah Derir Hersi. Photo: © UNHCR/Elena Hermosa Abdullah Dirir and his family are from Somaliland in the North of Somalia.

Abdullah left Somalia in 1983 to find work in Kuwait. Seven years later, Kuwait was invaded by Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein. The situation became very dangerous for Abdullah and after six weeks he was advised by a group of Iraqi soldiers to leave Kuwait as they told him ‘a long war is coming’.

On arrival at the airport, Abdullah found himself amongst thousands of people trying to flee Kuwait. He exchanged the money he had for a plane ticket which was nothing more than a tiny scrap of paper with some details scribbled on it by an airport official. Hoping it would suffice he boarded a plane to Baghdad. There he joined thousands of others looking to find a way home or a way on to safer lands and with eight others he headed for Jordan, eventually reaching the capital Amman.

“Ireland accepted me. I am safe and my family are safe. We are very grateful to be here.”

Here the many Somalis who had fled Kuwait found themselves in a difficult situation as war had broken out in Somalia which made it very difficult to return. In addition there were no easy land or air routes to their homelands. Abdullah’s family was living in Mogadishu which was the centre of the Somali conflict. This made it very dangerous for him to try to get back home to his family. Seeking the help of UNHCR, Abdullah joined a committee to try to help the Somalis to find solutions. With UNHCR’s assistance, many departed on flights to Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. Abdullah was one of the last to leave and was placed on a flight to Canada, via Shannon airport.

When he landed in Shannon he was informed that he could not continue on to Canada. Stranded and unable to return to Somalia, Abdullah was given temporary protection by the Irish State. He initially went to Dublin to the Irish Red Cross House where he met Cuban and Hungarian refugees. In 1994 he was reunified with his wife and children who had fled the Somali civil war and had been air lifted from Mogadishu to Northern Somalia, on to Ethiopia.

Abdullah says that he is now part of Ireland’s ups and downs. “If you ever see me complaining, my complaints are not that deep. Ireland accepted me. I am safe and my family are safe. We are very grateful to be here.

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