“You can’t find returnees or deportees who can tell you their story,” says Abraham. “It’s like the dead who can never come back and tell about heaven.”
We are with Abraham, a high-spirited Eritrean refugee in his 20s, at a small Eritrean run NGO in Bologna.
Like many refugees, he departed Eritrea with limited knowledge of the journey which lay ahead of him. He left with the aim of getting to Khartoum, the major launch pad for refugees from the Horn of Africa heading to Europe via the Mediterranean. In Khartoum, Abraham, just like many others, would work to earn some money that would finance the journey.
While in Sudan, he heard of all the terrible things that befall those embarking for Europe via the Mediterranean. So he decided to try and make enough money to buy a passport in the black market which would subsequently enable him fly to Europe.
This, unfortunately, was not to be.
“My plan was to save money and leave Sudan in a safe way by plane,” says Abraham. “I was afraid of taking the Libyan route.”
“But I was forced to change my plans… because my brother came from Eritrea,” he explains.
Watch Abraham recount his journey from Eritrea:
“I had imagined the desert would be difficult to some extent,” says Abraham. “But I never thought it would be that challenging.”
Packed into overcrowded pick-up trucks, Abraham, together with many others, was transported across the Sahara desert in Sudan and Libya.
“Throughout the journey we would fall off the trucks and have to run to catch up with them,” he remembers.
After seven days of driving, the Sudanese smugglers handed them over to the Libyans and that’s when all the suffering started.
“Once in Libya, one has to come to Europe,” says Abraham. “There is no other choice.”
Watch Abraham describe his experience in Libya:
Eventually, Abraham was one of the lucky few to get on a boat in Libya bound for Europe. As if fate were mocking him, his boat started to leak. After three days at sea in a leaking boat, and no hope of survival, they were rescued and taken to Italy.
Once in Italy, Abraham was provided with a resident permit. But life was not as he’d expected.
Watch Abraham’s account of life in Italy: