Ibrahim Omer: Former refugee who’s New Zealand’s first African MP

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Ibrahim Omer, originally from Eritrea, a United Nations interpreter, longed for a different lifestyle once tension rose in his home country. So in pursuit of a new life, he fled home to New Zealand where he is now an MP for one of New Zealand’s political parties.

Talking about his new job role as an MP he says he is overwhelmed yet remains excited.

“I’m very overwhelmed and I’m very excited at the same time because this is for us, as a country New Zealand, and for me as a person and for the community that I represent here in New Zealand, it’s quite an achievement. It’s a historic day, so I’m super happy.”

Before arriving in New Zealand, Ibrahim Omer had moved from Eritrea through to Sudan, seeking asylum.

“I spent about four to five years in Sudan in a refugee camp. But, I was mainly working for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as an interpreter. Then after spending three years in Sudan, Sudan had its own problems, its own civil wars and that’s New Zealand came out of nowhere and accepted my application through the UNHCR.”

Ibrahim Omer (top row, second from right) with some school friends. Source: BBC

In 2008, he ended up in New Zealand.

Life was hard in New Zealand, he said. For work, Ibrahim started cleaning school halls. 

“One full-time job was not enough. So I needed to earn more. I did pick up another full-time job, at Victoria University, where I later studied. I did it for a few years after I saved enough money during university. Three years later, I graduated with a double major in Political Science and International Relations plus Development Studies.” 

And within 12 years, Ibrahim managed to become an MP in New Zealand.

“The reason I was doing it, to me, is a way of giving back to the society, the community, to the country that gave me so much. At the end of the day, the taxpayers funded me coming to New Zealand so I needed to say thank you by doing something. Something nice for the communities of the country.”

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