“Those who post pictures on Facebook of their lives in Europe after taking this journey are the worst killers, worse than those who kill directly.” Says Eyob, an Eritrean refugee in his late 40s.
It’s a hot August afternoon in the Italian capital, where Eyob has been living for about three weeks. He has just finalized plans to move onwards to Milan, and hopefully to Northern Europe, like many other Eritrean refugees. All his belongings are in a small cotton bag, which he clutches tightly as it contains all his earthly possessions.
Like many Eritreans living in Sudanese refugee camps, Eyob had witnessed other refugees departing the camps for Europe. Those who succeeded subsequently sent money to their family members and friends in the camps. Enticing images of their successes in Europe were abundant on social media, although possibly masking the reality of their situations. It was the images and the money that drove Eyob to make the decision to also leave.
Through the assistance of paid smugglers, Eyob left his camp in Shagarab and arrived in Khartoum. His plan was to secure a job in the Sudanese capital that would ultimately finance his journey onwards. Unfortunately, life in Khartoum proved to be difficult. Eyob did not speak Arabic, which was required for any kind of job.
Listen to Eyob recount his decision to depart the camp and embark on the journey to Europe.
After a month and a half in Khartoum, Eyob set out for Libya, riding on a crowded pick-up truck. The truck was driven at an incredibly high speed. Eyob and the other passengers were forced to hold hands to ensure they would not fall off, especially since the driver had mentioned he would not stop for anyone.
Once in Libya, they were handed over to traffickers who proceeded to beat and torture them. In addition to this, the area where they were held was said to be a territory occupied by ISIS, of whom the traffickers were also afraid.
“At that point, I regretted it. But I had already started the journey,” Eyob recounts. “If there were any means of going back I would have opted to do so, but I had to continue because I had already started.”
After a month in Libya, Eyob, together with other refugees and migrants, was put on a boat bound for Europe. The barely sea-worthy boat—shoddy, wooden, and chipping—was overloaded with hundreds of people. Eight hours out to sea, the engine stopped working and the boat began to leak.
Luckily, they were located near an Italian ship which rescued them. Once in Italy, Eyob and his fellow passengers, were offered medical assistance by the Red Cross and taken to reception centers. A few days later, Eyob continued his journey, headed for Rome, with the aim of eventually moving on to other European countries.
Listen to Eyob’s account of his journey through Libya and at sea.
“From Rome one has to continue on to Milan and Germany, and then to other destinations, according to ones needs,” Eyob says. “This is the information I had.”
On the day of this interview, Eyob boarded a train bound for Milan and, just like many other refugees, he would try to reach other European countries with strong labor markets and social support.