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Mo Farrah appointed IOM ambassador

22 December 20230 comments

Olympic gold medallist, athletics legend and former refugee Mo Farah has become the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) first Global Goodwill Ambassador.

The appointment of Sir Mo Farah was announced recently by IOM’s Director General Amy Pope.

The announcement was made in Geneva at the 114th Session of the IOM Council, which includes all of IOM’s Governing Bodies, and representatives of its 175 member states. 

Sir Mo, 40, retired from running in September after a long and celebrated career. In 2022, he revealed to the world that he had been trafficked as a child from Somalia to the UK.   

“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,” he said.  

“Becoming a global Goodwill Ambassador for IOM gives me a chance to help people, people like me, and make changes. To help people know we can all make a difference in our lives.” 

Sir Mo says he intends to use his new platform as Goodwill Ambassador to raise awareness of issues affecting people on the move, including protection and trafficking, and advocate for the transformative power of sport, especially for women and girls.  

“Migration is so important for all of us, including me. 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. 

Ms Pope said, “IOM is honoured to have Sir Mo Farah as our inaugural global Goodwill Ambassador. 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.”

Sir Mo, whose birth name was Hussein Abdi Kahin, was born on 23 March 1983 in Somalia. His father died in the Isaaq Genocide when he was aged four, and he then became separated from his mother.

He spent a few years in Mogadishu as a child and at the age of nine he was illegally trafficked to the UK via Djibouti, when he was given the name Mohammed Farah and was forced to work as a domestic servant.

He was flown from the country by a woman he had never met, and made to look after another family’s children. He obtained British citizenship in July 2000 under the name Mohamed Farah.

These aspects of his background were not made public until July 2022, and a lawyer told him that there was a risk that he might lose his British nationality as it was obtained by misrepresentations. Britain’s Home Office, however, assured him that he would not face any repercussions.

For the first years he was in Britain, he was not allowed to go to school, but when he was 11 or 12 he began to attend Year 7 at Feltham Community College, where staff were told he was a refugee from Somalia.

His athletic talent was first identified by a PE teacher and he went on to join a local athletic s club.

After rising through the ranks of athletes, Sir Mo won the gold medal in 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the 2012 London Olympics and in the same events at the 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

He was won several other national, European and world titles.

Established in 1951, IOM is the leading intergovernmental organisation in the field of migration and is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. IOM joined the United Nations system as a related organization in 2016.