It was a special occasion when about 300 invitees turned up for iftar at the Migration Response Centre (MRC) managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Obock, Djibouti.
They included representatives from the local authority, women's associations, the Fanteherou host community, along with members of the local committee of refugees as well as partner representatives.
Iftar is the meal enjoyed by Muslims after sunset during the month of Ramadan, a time that is also characterized by acts of solidarity and generosity towards the most vulnerable, including migrants.
For IOM, Ramadan is also an opportunity to strengthen social cohesion and mutual understanding between migrants, refugees and host communities.
Djibouti is both a transit and destination country, receiving thousands of migrants from neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa, but also those returning from the Arabian Peninsula.
According to IOM's Displacement Tracking Matrix, about 500,000 migrants have transited through Djibouti over the past three years.
During March 2022, the Obock MRC provided shelter, water, food, hygiene items as well as medical and psychosocial assistance to 303 vulnerable migrants. About 115 of them returned home safely through the Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programme, supported by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa.
Acting MRC manager Dr Youssouf Moussa Mohamed said the iftar gathering was motivated by the need to promote inclusion, diversity and tolerance, especially during the month of fasting and prayer. He said he was very happy to see so many people "because it allows us to meet and share the values of living together”.
The breaking of the fast was followed by a prayer at nightfall.
Speaking on behalf of the local authority of Obock, the town’s Prefect Deputy, Mr Mohamed Awad, said: "It's so great to see so many people gathered to share a meal. Solidarity is our strength and also our tradition, especially this month. The authorities in Obock are very grateful to IOM and the work done on the ground to support the most vulnerable migrants transiting through the region."
Migrants, refugees, and members of the host community took the opportunity to share their testimonies based on their experiences as migrants.
Ahmed Birou who found care and support at the MRC since returning from Yemen a month ago, said: ‘’Since we left home, we have never been able to have a decent iftar and this atmosphere reminds us of the spirit of Ramadan at home. During this special month, on this blessed night, we are truly honoured to live these unique moments among you away from our families, friends and loved ones.”
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative
Launched in December 2016 with the support of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the EU and the IOM, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.