Human Trafficking: A Sanctuary for Refugees in Addis Ababa

Editors’ note: While many Ethiopians seek to leave their country in search of prosperity, it is a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of refugees from other countries in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Journalist Hikma A. Abdulmejid met some of these refugees at Jesuit Refugee Service in Addis Ababa, the capital, and shares her surprise at what she found there in this audio report. Read more about the work of J.R.S. in protecting refugees from trafficking and exploitation in “Drawn by Illusion” in the September 2023 issue of ONE. A full transcript follows.

As I arrived at Jesuit Refugee Service, I anticipated a serene and quiet atmosphere befitting an office setting. However, to my surprise, the compound was bustling with energy, filled with the laughter and joy of young adults and children. As the car I was in stepped into the compound, the sound of a volleyball being spiked caught my attention.

A group of young adults engaged in an intense game were frustrated because the car had to pass by the field they were playing on to be parked. We drove quickly for that sake. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and their athletic prowess was evident as they leaped and dived to keep the ball in play.

Nearby was a playground that came alive with the laughter and excitement of children. Swings swayed back and forth, and slides echoed with the delighted screams of those who dared to slide down at full speed. The children, oblivious to my arrival, were fully immersed in their games, their innocence shining through their radiant smiles.

The young adults and children were all refugees. Before commencing the interview, the cameraman decided to capture some photographs to accompany our story. As soon as the children noticed the camera, their curiosity sparked, and they rushed towards us, calling out to their friends. It was as if a wave of excitement swept through the compound, drawing everyone’s attention.

The children, eager to be part of the story, posed with enthusiasm, striking playful and imaginative poses. They showcased their vibrant personalities. Each trying to outdo the other in their quest to capture the perfect shot. Their laughter created an atmosphere of pure joy. In their eagerness to impress us, the children began to showcase their linguistic abilities.

They proudly shared phrases and greetings in multiple languages, demonstrating their diverse backgrounds. Many of them hailed from Eritrea and South Sudan, and some from Syria and Yemen, bringing with them a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions. As the photographer and I interacted with the children, they spoke of their dreams, their aspirations, and the challenges they had overcome.

Their words painted a vivid picture of strength and determination, despite their hardships. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of admiration and gratitude. Their presence reminded me of the power of resilience and the importance of providing a haven for those who have endured unimaginable hardships.

Jesuit Refugee Service was not just an office. It was a sanctuary where young people and children could find solace, support and a chance to rebuild their lives.

Hikma A. Abdulmejid is a freelance journalist and lecturer in journalism and communications at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español