Ibrahim Omer is a former refugee from Eritrea. He arrived in New Zealand in 2008 through the refugee quota. New Zealand isn’t where Ibrahim’s story ends, but it is where it changes - for the better.
As a teenager, Ibrahim was forced to flee his home, escaping a repressive regime, the potential to end up a child soldier or face prison for refusing national service, which is both compulsory and endless.
“There was a shoot to kill policy on the border by the regime, I had very limited options, either to be shot, or get arrested and spend years in underground or metal shipping containers, or make it safe to Sudan,” said Ibrahim.
Speaking at the Public Hearing of Our Voices at Parliament on 15 February Ibrahim said he wanted to tell his story to give those listening some idea why people choose to leave their country, why millions of people take the deadly risks, why they put their loved ones in danger of drowning in the oceans, or falling prey to greedy human traffickers.
“The answer is because they run out of options, because they would rather die trying than dying a slow and painful death.”
Ibrahim was lucky he made it to Sudan, but safety wasn’t guaranteed and he faced the very real prospect of being deported back to Eritrea until the UNHCR intervened and referred his case onto third countries for resettlement.
"It was at this crucial moment of my life New Zealand came asking for any special cases, luckily I got accepted, that was the day that changed my life. If it wasn’t for this wonderful country I would be languishing somewhere in an underground prison in a desert."
“It was at this crucial moment of my life New Zealand came asking for any special cases, luckily I got accepted, that was the day that changed my life. If it wasn’t for this wonderful country I would be languishing somewhere in an underground prison in a desert,” said Ibrahim.
Today, he said he couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more proud. As a third year student at Victoria University he is working hard to give back to the country that gave him a second chance.
But he also makes a special plea to the government of New Zealand: “As a former refugee who got the second chance in this beautiful country, I would like to add my voice to the thousands of Kiwis across the country who are calling on our Government to double the refugee quota.”