Refugee, cleaner – now New Zealand Member of Parliament! Ibrahim Omer

Yesterday, an Eritrean won a place in New Zealand’s Parliament. Congratulations!

Ibrahim OmerIbrahim Omer’s story is one every Eritrean will appreciate.  He has just been elected as a Labour Party MP.

This is what the party said about him in the run-up to the election.

“Meet Ibrahim

Ibrahim Omer is standing as a Labour candidate to represent communities who often struggle to have their voices heard. His experience spans fleeing his home country, being in a refugee camp, working as a minimum wage cleaner, graduating from university, and representing low paid workers as a union organiser.

Ibrahim’s wide personal experience makes him the real deal. He left his home country of Eritrea in 2003, making the dangerous border crossing to neighbouring Sudan. He spent years in UN-run refugee camps where he worked as an interpreter, until being detained on suspicion of being a spy. It was only when the UN stepped in that he was rescued and offered the chance to come to New Zealand.

He moved to Wellington where he worked as a cleaner and dreamt of studying at Victoria University. That dream came true in 2014 when he was promoted to cleaning supervisor. He paid for his study by working full time at nights, cleaning the university he attended.

Since becoming involved in politics at university, Ibrahim has taken every opportunity to work for a better tomorrow. He has chaired the board of ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, been involved in governance for the Living Wage Movement, and knocked on hundreds of doors and made thousands of calls as a Labour volunteer.

Ibrahim wants to be in parliament to fight for people in the positions he has been in to have better opportunities for a decent life.”

He has also been profiled by Amnesty International

As a teenager, Ibrahim was forced to flee his home, escaping a repressive regime, the potential to end up a child soldier or face prison for refusing national service, which is both compulsory and endless.

“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,” said Ibrahim.

Speaking at the Public Hearing of Our Voices at Parliament on 15 February Ibrahim said he wanted to tell his story to give those listening some idea why people choose to leave their country, why millions of people take the deadly risks, why they put their loved ones in danger of drowning in the oceans, or falling prey to greedy human traffickers.

“The answer is because they run out of options, because they would rather die trying than dying a slow and painful death.”

Ibrahim was lucky he made it to Sudan, but safety wasn’t guaranteed and he faced the very real prospect of being deported back to Eritrea until the UNHCR intervened and referred his case onto third countries for resettlement.

“It was at this crucial moment of my life New Zealand came asking for any special cases, luckily I got accepted, that was the day that changed my life. If it wasn’t for this wonderful country I would be languishing somewhere in an underground prison in a desert.”

“It was at this crucial moment of my life New Zealand came asking for any special cases, luckily I got accepted, that was the day that changed my life. If it wasn’t for this wonderful country I would be languishing somewhere in an underground prison in a desert,” said Ibrahim.

Today, he said he couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more proud. As a third year student at Victoria University he is working hard to give back to the country that gave him a second chance.

But he also makes a special plea to the government of New Zealand: “As a former refugee who got the second chance in this beautiful country, I would like to add my voice to the thousands of Kiwis across the country who are calling on our Government to double the refugee quota.”


Labour MP's Wellington
Labour Party celebrations in Wellington. L-R: New list MP Ibrahim Omer, high-ranking list MP and former leader Andrew Little, Ohariu MP Greg O’Connor, new list MP Ayesha Verral, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and Rongotai MP Paul Eagle.


  1. Look, so many Eritreans who had bright future like Ibrahim are under the captivity of African North Korea, lost their lives in vain inside Eritrea, crossing borders, travelling in the wilderness and sea.
    New Zealand, thank you for delivering Ibrahim and helping him accomplish this and future successes. I hope you will continue to do the same for the Eritrean refugees in different countries.
    Congratulations Ibrahimo wedi hagerey!

    1. Congratulations Ibrahim you make us proud .many Eritreans who have a great potential to make Eritrea a better country was driven out of the country by the dictator.i am so glad you accomplished your dream in your second home .

  2. What a great accomplishment! Jigna.. And thank you New Zealand for the love and support you gave yo a refugee. And Kindly ask other nations to fo the same for Eritrean refugees in Libya Ethiopia and Sudan.

  3. Well done bro. This is a big example for us that we have the same refugee history. The hidden of this bright future is our dictator.

  4. Ibrahim Glückwünsch zu deinem Erfolg, hart Arbeit lässt sich auszahlen. Wir sind stolz auf dich Bruder weiter so. Bildung Bildung, dass fällt die Eritrea in Heimat.

  5. Congrats man, I am proud of u. And thanks to beloved New Zealand people and government. I wish u all the best! Congratulations Ibrahim Omer!

  6. Congratulations!!!Mr lbrahim omer ,l wanna thank also Ñewzealand government and their lovely as the same time l wish you the best and bright future.
    With best regard.

  7. I am from Ethiopia. Those who have access to gallant brother please pass along a raucous congratulation from me. I am very proud of him. What an inspiration!!! Right on brother!!! Right on!!!!

  8. Congra Ibrahim ! All eyes of Eritreans have began to focus towards New Zealand because of your success. You are lucky to be in a nice country. Do not forget your fellow Eritreans languishing in back home. Try to be part of the solution. Saving one life should not be enough. FtaH nmmxae teraka aytresee.

  9. Congratulation brother Ibrahim Omer.
    What an accomplishment and great success after very hard work and a journey full of personal struggles MashAllah wish you more success in life.
    You are hope to every human being who strives to reach to higher level of carrier and personal and professional growth especially to Eritreans !!

  10. Warmest congratulation Ibrahim and to Jacinta Arden on your achievement. You are a great leader and role model for all Eritreans. I hope you will continue to be a voice for refugees. Well done مبروك ربنا يوفقك

  11. What an accomplishment and better opportunity !! What a beautiful country of New Zealand !!! I am proud of you Ibrahim

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