Strength to Survive and Start Anew
When she was a 12-year-old child, Bita* was forced to marry a man four times her age – a protection risk faced by many in Afghanistan. Now in her thirties, she takes care of six children and her husband who is unable to work due to disability. When flash floods destroyed their home in Paktya* province late last year, they lost everything and decided to go to Iran in search of a better life. But on the way, Bita was sexually assaulted by one of the men supposed to be helping them cross the border. Then their group was spotted by the border authorities and deported back to Afghanistan. Aware that her relatives in Paktya had heard about the abuse she’d experienced, Bita knew it wasn’t safe to go home anymore. Survivors of trafficking in Afghanistan, whether female or male, are heavily stigmatized and can face violence and even death.
IOM Protection staff met Bita and her family at the Nimroz border and provided immediate assistance and transportation to a safer destination. Once in her chosen province of return, Bita met an IOM caseworker to discuss her family situation: “After I visited her, I saw that she was facing a very bad situation: her husband was disabled, they were living in an unsafe shelter, she had nothing to feed her children with, and she was facing huge personal trauma from what she’d been through,” says Leilah*, IOM caseworker. Bita had also lost her tazkira (ID card) in the floods, so had no legal documentation. The caseworker worked with Bita to identify what her immediate protection needs were and provided her with cash to rent a safe home, to buy clothes and keep her family warm. IOM worked closely with several organizations to support Bita, she was referred to Humanity & Inclusion (HI) for counselling and to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to get a new tazkira, and to Save the Children for livelihoods support. “IOM has saved my life and my kids’ life,” Bita said.
IOM Afghanistan is supporting undocumented returnees to access vital Protection services as part of the global COMPASS project thanks to the Government of the Netherlands.