Finding Peace and a Place to Talk- the Story of a Victim of Trafficking

“When organizations try to help people like us, they think that all we need is food and shelter, but what I found in the MRRC is a place to talk. A place where I can finally tell someone about the terrible things I have been through,” stated Aster when asked what she thought of the services provided by the IOM Migrant Resource and Response Center in Khartoum, Sudan.

Aster, 22 years old, walked from her hometown in a village not far from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Sudan six years ago. Her family had helped her pay an Ethiopian man to take her and dozens of others from her village, all seeking to improve their lives, across the border to Sudan. Aster, along with the other women and men took the 8 day treacherous journey on foot through the borders of East Sudan and eventually to Khartoum. 

Aster speaks of how the same man who had made promises of safety to them and their families, would along the way, leave behind anyone who was too tired to continue the journey. The destiny of those left behind was not known and Aster was sure that many died alone and afraid along the route. She spoke of how upon crossing the border that seven of them were raped as payment to allow them to continue their journey. Aster tells of how upon their arrival to Khartoum, at the home of the man who had promised to help but who had made their journey into a nightmare; they were lined up by his wife to have showers and eat. After the long days of walking, Aster woke up the next morning to be handed over to her new employer, a woman living in an affluent neighborhood in Khartoum. Aster speaks of how exhausted and overwhelmed she was. She spent six years working as a domestic worker in eight different homes in Khartoum; with some employers kinder than others. She found ways to cope with the sadness and confusion she felt, including having left behind in Ethiopia her three year old son, the only good outcome of her short lived marriage at the age of 16, and kept telling herself that one day she will be able to make enough money to go back home to him.

Aster’s story is not unique; many other migrants are subjected to similar experiences after falling victim to human trafficking. The Migrant Resource and Response Centre, where Aster found the counselling support she desperately needed, was established in October 2015 by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Justice. The Centre equips migrants with information and knowledge to make informed migration choices, and provides access to services to address the immediate needs of vulnerable migrants. The Centre, the first of its kind in Sudan, provides migrants with a range of services, including psycho-social counselling, medical assistance, information sessions on the risks of irregular migration, and assisted voluntary return and reintegration of stranded migrants from Sudan to their countries of origin. Through its mobile response team, the MRRC also provides immediate assistance to migrants who cannot access the premises. The UK Department for International Development started funding the MRRC from January 2017, enabling IOM to expand the services to a wider range of vulnerable migrants.