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Michael's story

A passage of fear and patience

“We shouldn’t just think of those who have made it— there are many who get sold before even arriving at their destination,” says Michael, an Eritrean refugee living in Germany who witnessed people being sold to human traffickers by smugglers.

Michael’s odious journey began in 2008 when he left Eritrea for Ethiopia. There, he lived in a refugee camp for five years before embarking on a journey to Sudan, and then Libya, with the aim of getting to Europe.

Michael found himself in a state of perpetual fear. Fearing for his life, fearing abduction by other traffickers, and fearing the physical harm that could be inflicted upon him. Every moment was precarious.

On the way to Libya his group was forced to sleep in the desert for two weeks with very scarce provisions, receiving water and food only once during the evenings. “It was on this leg of the trip that they began abducting the women,” he recalls.

But Michael still considers his trip lucky. “The groups who came before and after us were kidnapped… that means out of four or five trips, only one arrives safely at the destination,” he says.

“No one goes through the journey without being beaten, or facing death,” Michael states. “Two to three people are sacrificed on each trip. There’s always death.”

Watch Michael describe his journey through Sudan and Libya.

When it came time for the sea journey, Michael boarded a boat with approximately 450 other people. After 12 hours at sea, they were rescued by the Italian coast guard.

Arriving in Europe, Michael expected to get a residence permit immediately and was looking forward to rebuilding his life and getting a job. But now, after nearly two years, he still hasn’t received it.

Feeling frustrated and helpless, all he can do is sit and wait.

Watch Michael talk about his life in Europe.

Date of interview: 21 June 2016  |  Last modified: 29 June 2016  |
Interview by: Messai Ali  |  Written by: Christa Awuor Odinga  |  Video by: Max-Michel Kolijn