28, November 2023
Four-time Olympic gold medal winner Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia and trafficked to Britain as a child, joined the UN migration agency on Tuesday as its first global goodwill ambassador.
The athletics great, who retired in September aged 40, said he wanted to help people in similar circumstances to overcome their experiences.
Farah won the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres at both the London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics in a stellar long-distance running career.
But in July 2022 he revealed that his real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin and he had been illegally trafficked into Britain as a child.
Rather than moving to the UK as a refugee from Somalia with his parents, as previously claimed, Farah revealed he came via Djibouti aged eight or nine with a woman he had never met, was given a false identity, and then made to look after another family’s children.
“No child should ever go through what I did; victims of child trafficking are just children. They deserve to be children. They deserve to play and to be kids,” Farah said.
He was appointed by the International Organization for Migration at the IOM Council, the UN agency’s annual main gathering.
“Becoming a global goodwill ambassador for IOM gives me a chance to help people — people like me — and make changes,” said Farah.
The athletics star wants to use his new platform to raise awareness of issues affecting migrants, including trafficking, and advocate for the power of sport to change lives, especially for women and girls.
“I was able to take the opportunity sport offered me to overcome my experiences as a young boy and show that no matter what we look like or what we sound like, we can achieve and overcome great things,” he said.
Farah said he was forced to do housework and childcare in return for food after being trafficked to London, and, estranged from his true family, would often lock himself in the bathroom in tears.
“A champion on and off the track, and a survivor of human trafficking, he brings true dedication, commitment and drive to IOM’s work, helping millions of people on the move and inspiring us all,” said the agency’s chief Amy Pope.
The IOM has two regional ambassadors: Ghanaian musician Kofi Kinaata and Egyptian actor Asser Yassin.