Tunisia: Longing For A Place To Call Home

Since the outbreak of war in 1991, Somalia has been left with no central government. Located in the Horn of Africa, this east African country has managed to maintain an informal economy based on livestock, remittances from its expatriate community, and the telecommunications sector. However, two decades of civil war has disrupted many lives and forced many Somalis to flee their country in search of asylum.

Sixty-three year old Hawiyeh Awal is one of them. Eighteen years ago Hawiyeh embarked on a treacherous journey through the desert with her daughter after violence, which claimed the lives of her entire family, and caused severe damages to both of her hands.

"Both of my hands were hit during a gun battle and they were unable to save my small finger on my left hand. My right hand suffered many fractures. After losing my family it was hard to ignore the situation anymore," Awal told Her Blueprint. "The government in Mogadishu wasn't doing anything to protect us and I needed to find safety for me and my daughter."

Relying on middlemen, Hawiyeh was able to survive a four month journey through the desert to finally reach her destination in Libya. For eighteen years, she managed to rebuild her life working as a domestic worker for Libyan families but then the civil war broke out.

When we met, Hawiyeh was sitting outside her makeshift tent with her daughter and grandson as they tried to find a bit of shade from the Tunisian desert's scorching sun. She was sitting on a white bucket that she had turned upside down to function as a temporary chair, while her daughter -- who is in her late twenties -- nibbles at the couscous mixed with onions and tomatoes they were given for lunch.

"I'm scared that I'm going to die in this hot desert," she explains. "I have diabetes and I've lost more than eight kilos since coming here because of the hot weather."

Like many other migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, Hawiyeh was once again uprooted from her fairly stable situation and forced to flee to Libya's North African neighbor of Tunisia by bus several months ago.

"The situation was getting really bad. Many families were being held up at gunpoint in their homes and robbed," Hawiyeh adds. "I started to worry for my daughter because she is without a husband and emotionally I just couldn't bear going through another war."

Tens of thousands of individuals have crossed Ras Ajdir border crossing to the under-equipped and under-staffed Shousha refugee camp in Tunisia with what little belongings they manage to salvage. For many, Libya was a relatively stable economy where one could find modest work or flee political violence due to Muammar Gaddafi's Pan African stance in the 1990's, which opened the country's borders.

Now many just wait for another border to open.

"My daughter and I can't bear the situation in this camp anymore because all we do is sit and wait. We're just hoping to be resettled in a safe place where I can find medical treatment because here we must first get approval from the Tunisian military in order to access any kind of healthcare," Hawiyeh adds. "The problem is that the West decided to bomb Libya in order to protect people but also decided to close their borders so no one is interested in protecting us. We're trapped here."