20 years old, Eritrea

23 May 2023

“I am originally from Eritrea. Because of the war, it was very difficult to move around and to have a normal life. I did not want to do the national service and they put me in jail. I escaped after four months and I moved to Ethiopia in 2019. I stayed there for 2 years and a half. Even though I was not happy, it was a bit better than Eritrea. I worked there as a carpenter but there were many thieves. I then managed to go to Sudan with the help of a smuggler. From Sudan, I spent five days in the Sahara desert before reaching Libya. 

Libya was not what we heard. It was terrible. They put us in a store and we did not receive food. I saw some people dying from hunger and others being shot. The guards were always looking for fights. One day the police came and we managed to escape. After seven months with a smuggler, another one took us and sent us to a prison. They separated the Sudanese and the Eritreans and then the Eritreans. We were sent to different prisons with different smugglers. I heard about a prison called Mayo where you cannot leave if you weight more than 25 kilos. Since that moment,  I lost contact with a lot of people. 

We spent five days in the sea without fuel before you saved us.

One of the smugglers took control and told us ‘I’ll help you to cross the sea’. After five months waiting, a few people gave up and others decided to go to different smugglers. It was very difficult to know what to do and which smugglers to choose. Some were asking for less money but you had not enough fuel for the boat. I think I have been lucky because I met some people who stayed 5 years in Libya trying to cross the sea. 

We spent five days in the sea without fuel before you saved us. We only had one cookie and a bit of water each when we left. My body was itching a lot. Our boat was overcrowded and not strong. The front was also broken. We did not have the choice, the smuggler put us in. After few miles, the water was already coming in. We called Libya but no one came. A boat also passed us but did not stop. We knew there were other boats rescuing people like us and I know our smuggler made sure that it was a good time for us to leave. 

A boat of Egyptians passed us and some people jumped in the sea. They swam to reach their boat but it was already full. I helped them to get back in the boat. Then we saw the Geo Barents from far but we were exhausted. We reached the limit of tolerance. When the two small rescue boats arrived, some jumped again in the water to attract attention. We were so desperate.

I heard stories of people who tried the same journey before me but I did not think it would be so difficult and I wanted to try myself. I have a brother but I do not want him to experience what I went through. I also have an aunt in Sweden. I hope I will be able to see her again. I told her about my plans when I was in Ethiopia but I have not been able to be in touch with her since then.”