Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Meet Eritrean refugee, cleaner now New Zealand’s first African MP

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Isaac Kaledzi
Isaac Kaledzi
Isaac Kaledzi is an experienced and award winning journalist from Ghana. He has worked for several media brands both in Ghana and on the International scene. Isaac Kaledzi is currently serving as an African Correspondent for DW.

New Zealand now has its first African member of parliament and it happens to be a former Eritrean refugee.

Ibrahim Omer achieved this feat in the country’s just ended election in which the Labour Party had its biggest victory in 50 years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party won enough seats to allow Mr Ibrahim to be in parliament.

Ibrahim first fled Eritrea in 2003 into a refugee camp in neighbouring Sudan.

He spent years in those UN-run refugee camps working as an interpreter, until he was detained on suspicion of being a spy.

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The UN stepped in to get him rescued and he was offered the chance to travel to New Zealand.

He was resettled in New Zealand where he worked as a cleaner at Victoria University.

Ibrahim studied at the university while working as a cleaning supervisor and then got involved in politics while there.

As a teenager, Ibrahim was forced to flee his home to escape a repressive regime and a potential of ending up as a child soldier.

Ibrahim Omer. Photo: © Amnesty International

“There was a shoot to kill policy on the border by the regime, I had very limited options, either to be shot, or get arrested and spend years in underground or metal shipping containers, or make it safe to Sudan,” Ibrahim said.

He said his victory was “for the low paid workers” and “former refugees”.

Before the votes were cast he spoke of his desire to “fight for people in the positions he has been in to have better opportunities for a decent life”.

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