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Short Testimonies - Telling the real story

Short Testimonies

Eritrean Refugee in Shagarab, Sudan

“Back home, I would to travel to the nearby village to get to high school, as there were not any high schools in our village. My older brother is still in the National service, and ever since his departure, I was responsible for taking care of our parents. I used to work in the farm and do anything to sustain the family. Shouldering the family responsibility took a lot of my time and was unable to focus on my studies. I failed in 10th grade and was not given a chance to enroll again for the same grade. Since I left school, I kept receiving numerous “summons” from local administration to report to the military training centre; as a result, I decided to leave.

Through my contacts, I was able to hire a smuggler who brought me to Sudan.   Together with another person, we travelled for 6 days until we finally crossed the border into Sudan. Of course we paid a lot of money to the smuggler.

When I left, I was so optimistic that, I can make it to Europe within short time and support my family. However, now I have found myself in a difficult situation. Now, my plan began falling apart as my health began to deteriorate, the route to Libya has become difficult and I lack resources. Life in the camp is very tough, it is even worse for those who do not have family support.” Eritrean refugee in Shagarab Sudan

Eritrean refugee in Shagarab, Sudan

“I arrived in Sudan just a month ago. My experience in the hands of the traffickers was a nightmare, I was beaten, hands and legs cuffed, deprived of water and food until my parents paid the ransom.

I travelled in a group of two boys and three girls and it took us almost three days to reach the border. Traffickers and smugglers normally prey along the border and are holding several people for ransom and rape women and girls.

I used to believe, I will have personal freedom, which I yearned for long time, and at some point, I would be able to work and support my family. However, none of these has come into fruition. I am still in the camp, it depresses me to see people still in the camp for decades, who are not able to work and venture out of the camp.

It did not took me long to realize, things are much complicated than I thought/planned. I am not ready to live the rest of my life in the camp; I prefer die trying than die in the camp.”

Eritrean refugee in Shagarab, Sudan

Eritrean unaccompanied children in Shagarab, Sudan

“I travelled with my friends – we are five – and it has been almost three weeks since we arrive in Sudan. We were all students in the same grade, 6th grade in Elementary school.  We were brought up together, we love each other, we trust each other, we play together and we go to the same school, we spend most of the time after school playing football. Our bond of friendship is very strong and we consider one another as brothers. However, something changed around mid-2016, one our friends left the country and came to Sudan alone without informing us. He arrived in Shagarab first and then continued to Khartoum. We have not had any communication with him since he left and we only know from his family that he is in Khartoum and doing well.

One day the rest of us discussed and decided that if our friend was able to make it why not us? We agreed to give it a try, we were very excited about the prospects of life in Sudan. We lived in a town close to the boarder. One evening we all met secretly and decided to come to Sudan, we travelled to Sudan by ourselves. We walked for almost a day and finally, with the help of some herdsmen along the way, we arrived in Wad Sharifay, a refugee reception center.  Within a few days we were transferred us to Shagarab. We regret coming here and we are planning to return with the help of UNHCR. We miss our families and we want to go back to school and be normal kids. We will never try this again!”

Unaccompanied and Separated Children in Shagarab Sudan.

14 November 2017

Eritrean refugee in Shagarab, Sudan

“I was born and raised in one of the second largest cities in Eritrea. I used to see and hear friends, relatives or people from my city leaving and successfully making it to either Israel or Europe and being able to provide for their families. I decided then, I should also try and do the same for my family.

I am the oldest in my family and when I left, I was only 16 and it has been almost two years since I arrived in Sudan. Life in the camp is very hard, the weather is harsh and the food ration provided in the camp is barely enough for one week. I do not have anyone to support me from outside or in the diaspora so I am now struggling to sustain myself. I tried to work in the farm with the locals, who normally mistreat us and usually refuse to give us our wages and expel us with little payment or nothing. I am now stuck, I cannot continue onward because I do not have the resources to pay for the smugglers. I am psychologically and physically in a very bad situation. I am desperate and do not know what to do or where to go.”

Eritrean refugee in Shagarab, Sudan

Somali refugee in AwBarre Refugee Camp in Ethiopia

“We were in a van full of other people being driven at full speed across the desert. Whilst going at full speed, we were detected by Sudanese Bedouins or what I think were “magafe”/ smugglers. The bus started to swerve dangerously. All of a sudden, I heard loud shots and bullets tearing through the bus. And then screams, deafening screams.

Out of the approximately 30 people in the car, at least 20 were slumped over, bloody. ALL LIFELESS. Even the driver was leaning over the steering wheel, shot in the head. I will never forget what I saw. I saw this after waking up covered in blood and surviving the bus that had flipped over numerous times.

Only four people survived that day. I was one of them. As soon as we escaped the car wreck, we were rescued by some Sudanese who, without any medical attention, drove us back to Ethiopia and handed us over to the Ethiopian border authorities who then contacted our friends and family and later transferred us to jail in Addis Ababa. I was in Jail for over two weeks before being taken back to the place I once was before and where I am now, Awbarre Refugee camp. After all of that, I still want to go to Europe but in a much a safer way.”

Somali Refugee from Awbarre Camp.

Eritrean refugee in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

“My mission is to save lives that’s why I want to share my story, as a lesson. With everything that has happened to me, and what I have gone through, I do not have any plans of leaving Ethiopia. I will wait for either a legal pathway or the legal right to work.

In Egypt, together with 18 others, I was beaten and tortured daily for 3 months. We were sold to Bedouins who demanded 25 000 USD. When we refused, they tortured us by hanging us upside down and burning us with plastic. We were detained for 4 months. I lost a lot of weight from 80 Kg to 42 Kg.

I have now lived in Addis Ababa for 5 years as an urban refugee. I still have scars from the journey because I buried 42 people along the way, the oldest being only 32 years old.

These days, I think a lot about why I left my country , but I had no choice. When I still see my fellow Eritreans making the journey, it really breaks my heart especially knowing that approximately 16 000 Eritreans are locked up in Libya and people are still going. Because of my experience, I am even more committed to letting the people know my story as a lesson of what can happen.”

Male Urban Eritrean Refugee, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Somali refugee in Kabribeyah Refugee camp, Ethiopia

“I could not take it anymore, being a refugee. It all began in Jijiga for me, visiting relatives and friends. We all talked about going Europe and living abroad. During my visit to Jijiga 2013, I met a young girl named Gudoon, she was my gateway to leaving Ethiopia. One late summer evening, Gudoon decided to count money in front of me – something around 500 dollars. Gudoon urged me to put together the same amount and said, “We are going to Europe!”

Upon reaching Addis Ababa, we were put in contact with smugglers who have houses all over the city where refugees and migrants are kept. I was in a house for four days before leaving for Sudan. The smugglers would bring food, water and sleeping bags for us to use. We could not talk much. All we could do was wait.

When the day came for us to leave, we drove from Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar and then to Matatma. During the journey, we were handed over to other smugglers. Luckily, no one was mistreated. The smugglers asked for the telephone numbers to our parents, specifically our mothers; and they told us that they would call our families back home to send the money for the journey, our food, transportation and accommodation costs. They started to threaten us wilding their weapons dangerously and saying that if our families did not send the money, we would not be released and would be put up for organ harvesting.

They wanted around 3,000 USD. My mother and family did not have that amount of money, so I felt stranded. I kept it together during the days but would break down at night. I was in their custody for two months. I lost weight and almost lost my mind. Finally, the money was sent and I was asked if I wanted to carry on to the Mediterranean Sea or be returned to Ethiopia. I chose Ethiopia; I chose my refugee camp. I could not risk my life any longer.

I disappeared from the camp in mid-June 2013. At the end of November that same year, I was returned to Kebribeya refugee camp. I do not think I will ever put myself through such an ordeal. I am lucky I survived.”

Somali Refugee from Kebribebya RefugeeCamp

Eritrean refugee in Hitsats Refugee Camp, Ethiopia

“The Eritrean diaspora is the problem. They know the difficulties and the situation in Libya and most have gone through the difficulties of moving irregularly but they do not give the correct advice. They say just proceed! Just proceed! And yet they know what is going on in the Sahara. Stop sending money for such journeys, just stop it!”

Eritrean refugee in Hitsats, Ethiopia on the misinformation provided to refugees by the diaspora.

Eritrean refugee in Khartoum, Sudan

I am now 23. I was born and raised in Ghedarif, Sudan. My parents fled their homeland almost 4 decades ago and they have been refugees ever since. 10 years ago, My father was kidnapped when he went to work on a farm around Ghedarif. I am the eldest in the family and I have six siblings.

Ever since my father disappeared, my mother has shouldered the responsibility of raising us by selling tea in the streets of Khartoum, in the El-Diem area. I take my education seriously and study hard at school, always dream to get a good education, have a decent job and eventually help my family. I am currently studying at Ahfad College in Khartoum, it is my second year and the office of refugee affairs (COR) is sponsoring my education by paying half of my tuition fee. The tuition fee, which was covered by COR, has been lowered by 25% due to budgetary reasons. I have two more years to complete my studies, but due to financial reasons, I have had to drop out of school time and again to raise the money and to support my mother whose health condition is also deteriorating. My dreams seem unachievable due to my financial situation and to make it worse a new government policy requires every alien (refugees and others) to pay their education fees in American Dollars.

It is challenging to live a life as a refugee in Sudan, giving up is not an option, I will try my best to continue with my education under such difficult circumstances and hopefully, tomorrow brings better things for us.