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Views from the ground – Yonas:
“It took me six months to travel 500km. But I have no regrets.””

The following story was originally compiled for the Mixed Migration Review 2019 and has been reproduced here for wider access through this website’s readership.

4Mi survey conducted in Djibouti City, October 2018.[1]

Even though I am only 22 I have been dreaming of migrating for many years. There was no-one in particular who told me or persuaded me to do so, but seeing people come back with money to Amhara, my hometown in northern Ethiopia, or sending money home from abroad, made think it was a good idea.

Before I left, I was a farmer. If I’d had enough money, or thought I had a chance of improving my situation and my place in society, I might well have stayed. Things might have gotten better for me, but I thought it would take too long, and I didn’t want to wait. In fact, I would have left sooner if I had had enough money.

My route changed a few times along the way, sometimes because of the price, or the security situation. I did not have a phone with me so most of the information I needed I got from friends and family before leaving, and then from other migrants once I began my journey.

I had heard lots of stories about other people’s journeys to Saudi Arabia and other places, so I thought I understood what it involved, what the risks were. I set off for Saudi Arabia in early 2018, heading first to Asayita in Ethiopia’s Afar region, travelling on foot and by car. I left with $450. I knew it wasn’t enough and that I would have to work now and again to pay for the whole trip.

Even though Djibouti City is only 500 km from Amhara, it took me six months to get here. So far, I have no regrets and I am still determined to get to Saudi Arabia and the only way is to go across the Red Sea and through Yemen. I won’t try to claim asylum in either Yemen or Saudi Arabia. I just want to get some kind of informal job so I can send some money home to help my family and save a bit. I don’t plan to stay there for very long, but I know I will have to be careful to avoid getting picked up by the authorities and deported. If everything works out, I might help some of my family to join me. Eventually I would like to return home to set up a business with my savings. I have seen others do this.


[1]‘Views from the ground’ presents six stories from migrants and refugees on the move, drawn directly from their responses to the 4Mi survey. As the surveys consist almost entirely of multiple-choice questions, these narratives, while presented in the first person, are not verbatim quotations, but they do faithfully reflect respondents’ answers and the geopolitical context of their journeys. 4Mi does not record names or other personally identifiable information and so all names are aliases.