Hi, I’m Mohammed Gaber and this is my story of migration..
Today is International Migrants Day 2019, which provides a chance to share stories of those who have migrated to every corner of the globe seeking new opportunities to study and work but also to seek safety from war and persecution.
What is International Migrants Day?
International Migrants Day is a United Nations (UN) led initiative, that’s why we decided to speak to Yemen born, Mohammed Gaber, who is a Community Cohesion Officer at Kirklees Council and former UN volunteer and employee. Since the age of 15, he has been a major health advocate for young people in Yemen, raising awareness on issues such as HIV/AIDS and adolescent reproductive health. He was recognised as a ‘Pioneer in health advocacy for youth in Yemen’ by the United Nations.
Here is Mohammed’s story…
“I had my scholarship waiting for me in the UK but I couldn’t get out of Yemen.”
My journey to the UK all started in 2016, I was working with the United Nations on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and I applied for a scholarship to study my Masters in the UK. When I found out that I had been successful I was so happy for the opportunity to travel to the UK and be part of the education system.
But, there was an issue.
The main airport in Yemen, Sanaʽa International Airport, was shut down because of the intense airstrikes meaning that no civilians could fly out of the country. I had my scholarship waiting for me in the UK but I couldn’t get out of Yemen. I was very fortunate that because I was a UN employee I was lucky enough to get access to use the UN airline to fly out of the country. Because the UN is a humanitarian organisation, the airport was only shut down for civilians but it was still open for humanitarian flights – if it had been someone else they would have lost the opportunity of the scholarship and that is how my journey to the UK started.
The scholarship is available all around the world but I chose the UK because for me there is something special about the UK, it is so prestigious and the education system is very well respected. My Dad also studied in the UK, he studied in Birmingham in the 1970’s and he always respected the UK and its high standards of education, the way of life…but not so much the weather.
In 2016, I arrived in Leeds to study my Masters in Public Health at the University of Leeds. When I arrived it wasn’t a massive culture shock as I had travelled previously to the United States of America, Australia and I have been to other countries through my voluntary work and my work with the UN. Like my Dad, I found the weather was a shock to the system and the education system was different to what I was used to.
I stayed in Leeds for six months after my Masters before I moved here to Huddersfield and then I got married. I was volunteering with Locala for two months before I got my first job with Kirklees Council.
The theme of this year’s International Migrants Day is social cohesion which is appropriate as I’m now working as a Cohesion Officer. My job is amazing, it’s really interesting – I have a mixture of British Culture but I also have my own culture from growing up in Yemen and I think it’s a good balance to have when speaking to people out in Communities. I want to stay in Huddersfield for many years, I think there is potential about Kirklees as I would love to stay and be part of the growth of Kirklees. It’s an exciting period and I want to help push Kirklees to be the best.
I think people may have misconceptions about migration and it’s important that people know there are many reasons why people migrate. It may be to study because their country doesn’t have a good education system, or they may want to work in another country where their skills could be efficiently used and appreciated or maybe a country needs people to come and work in certain roles.
“Give hand to the country before the country gives hand to you”
From a migrant perspective, “give hand to the country before the country gives hand to you”, this country hosted me to get my education and before I started working I volunteered and I decided when I was employed that I would continue to volunteer because I wanted to give back to the country that hosted me for my education. I try to undergo everything a British citizens does, I don’t have the passport but I pay my taxes the same and I pay for the NHS (if you come on a visa you pay for the NHS), and I hope speaking today on International Migrants Day helps people understand migrants in a different perspective.
Being here in safe and welcoming country is more than enough.
You can follow Mohammed Gaber on Twitter and keep up-to-date with his work by following him at @mohagab4
The observance of International Migrants Day this year focuses on the stories of social cohesion, which are as varied and unique as each of the 272 million migrants living new lives and building new communities in every corner of the globe.
We learn together, create together, work together, sing, dance and play together. We live together. That is the meaning of International Migrants Day and its message.
The International Organization for Migration salutes migrants and the communities, which they join and remake through mutual effort.
We salute and support them. We pledge to make the future we believe is arriving for all of us. #WeTogether.