Fatma’s story, Slovenia


Fatma, a 17-year Somali girl wears beautiful clothes. She and her mother, Basra decorated their hands with henna paint for the journey, as women in their culture often do so to mark special events and transitions. The father, Mohammed is “decorated” with shining happiness and pride, as he succeeded to bring his loved ones, wife and three children, to safety.

“In Mogadishu, Somalia there is no freedom, because there is no safety. When you go into the town to the market, you do not know whether you will come back alive or not. Al Shabab militia kill indiscriminately” explain Fatma and her younger brother, Dadir. “We have lost contact with our grandmother, grandfather and other members of the family long before we fled Mogadishu. We still do not know where they are, because telecommunication does not work and visiting them is too dangerous.” The children finished only a few classes in school. Their father worked as a tailor in Mogadishu and he was the first to flee. He arrived to Slovenia 3 years ago and immediately started to organize his family’s reunification. He sent a message to his family to move to neighboring Ethiopia as in Somalia they wouldn’t be able to get all the necessary documents for their departure. It took Mohammed almost three years to get his refugee status and the permission for family reunification. Meanwhile, the rest of the family lived in Ethiopia and settled in a wooden one-room hut, where the mother made money by cooking and selling food.

UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration helped the process in Ethiopia. But just before the family wanted to go to the airport a last obstacle had come up as each family member had to obtain a so-called exit visa which costed 460 dollars each. Fatma’s family were really lucky because Slovenians donated enough money for the whole project through Slovenian Philanthropy, a local NGO and they bought the necessary visas.

When Fatma and Dadir talk about life in Slovenia they mention “peace” and “freedom” quite often. “There is not even a small place of happiness in war”, says Dadir who have finally found some kind of happiness while war drags on in his own country. The children now other, more pleasant issues to worry about – they want to study medicine in Slovenia and they are at the beginning of a long journey.

Text: Katarina Kromar


1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org