Finding Home: Matios, an Ethiopian Refugee in Niger, Prepares to Rest His Suitcase in Canada

In Niamey, the capital and largest city of Niger, Matios, a 28-year-old Ethiopian refugee, awaits his departure for Canada. After four years of waiting, he is ready to be resettled in the North American country, eager to write a new chapter of his life.

Matios' journey started off 4,891 kilometers away, in the city of Gondar, in northwestern Ethiopia, where he was a farmer. 

"Looking back, my decision to leave home at 22 was not easy. I left behind two parents, a brother, and a sister. We worked together as a family, running a farm. My parents especially disliked the idea of me leaving the country. I felt the need to leave home because I wanted a better future. When the time came for me to go, I didn't inform anyone," says Matios. 

He embarked on the route to Libya, in the hands of smugglers as he navigated to Soudan before reaching Libya.

"I traveled to Sudan on foot with a group of other young Ethiopians, and the traffickers convinced us to pursue our journey to Italy. After a few months in Sudan, I earned enough money to cross the Sahara to Libya. The trip was disastrous in a crowded vehicle, there was not enough water, and we were all dehydrated under the brutal heat of the Sahara Desert. But the worst was yet to come," explains Matios. 

Matios dreams of reaching Europe were broken as he was arrested in Libya. 

Finding Home: Matios, an Ethiopian Refugee in Niger, Prepares to Rest His Suitcase in Canada

"I was imprisoned for a whole year when I first set foot in Libya. I don't like to remember my time in prison, but I remember very well the total emptiness I felt when I was released. Without the shelter provided by UNHCR in Libya, followed by a trip to Niger under refugee status, I don't know what my life would have looked like post-imprisonment," he adds. 

Matios was transferred to the Niger at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugee centre in Hamdallaye, in the Tillabéri region. 

"I have lived in the centre for four years in Niger. There is not much to do in Hamdallaye, but the shelter and assistance made my stay worthwhile. I felt like I belonged and made friends along the way," says Matios. 

After four years in the centre, Matios was happy to learn about his

resettlement to Canada. Prior to his departure, he is transferred to a transit centre in Niamey and goes through pre-departure orientation, medical examinations, and subsequent care organized by the International Organization for Mirgation (IOM). 

"I learned much about the country through the information sessions organized by the IOM staff at the centre. I was intrigued by the size of the country, which is the second largest in the world. I also became familiar with the Canadian culture, their strong history of respect for civil liberties, and the country's work environment and job opportunities," he explains. 

Even though his life took an expected turn, Matios believes that his experience these past years will contribute to him achieving better outcomes once he reaches Canada. He also has a clear professional path plan to help him start anew.  

"Once in Canada, I want to learn the language first and join adult education programmes before applying for a job. I am willing to learn any skill to help me earn a living," he concludes.

In Niger, IOM and UNHCR work closely with the government to enable the resettlement of refugees. As of 31 October 2022, and since the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) launched in 2017, a total of 5,017 refugees had left Niger to third countries under resettlement or through complementary ways. This number comprises of 3,493 persons, who have been evacuated from Libya through the ETM and 1,524 refugees that have been registered in the national asylum system in Niger. Out of 4,063 evacuees from Libya to Niger since November 2017, 666 evacuees are still in Niamey of whom 42 refugees are awaiting departure and 211 are awaiting interviews and decisions by third countries.