Tragedy and death

Yonas' dangerous journey


Yonas’ story

It’s a chilly June day in “The Jungle,” a camp in Calais, France, where, at that time, approximately 3,000 refugees and migrants from different parts of the world were living.

The area of the camp occupied by Eritrean refugees looks like a war zone, consisting of debris and partly burned structures, the result of a fight that had erupted a week earlier between different migrant groups.

Yonas, an Eritrean refugee, is hoping to one day cross over to the UK. Like many, he fled Eritrea for Sudan, where he lived in a refugee camp for four years. Due to a difficult life and a constant feeling of insecurity, he decided to embark on the perilous journey to Europe, during which he witnessed unthinkable hardships affecting children and adults alike.

“I myself, as a man, couldn’t endure the journey,” he says. “I plead with parents not to take this journey with children, children cannot tolerate the suffocation and the hardships of the journey. To the smugglers, I would like to say that it is immoral to make money trading with children’s lives.”

Listen to Yonas’ account of his journey from Sudan.

Throughout the journey, Yonas and others were handed from one smuggler to the next. During the handovers, they were held in “transit centers” which were most often shabby structures in terrible conditions.

Listen to Yonas recount what he witnessed in the hands of smugglers.

After being rescued at sea, Yonas was taken to Italy where he stayed for a short period in the city of Tuscany. There he learned from other refugees that he should not have had his fingerprints taken.

“I was scared, like any other refugee,” he says. “I didn’t want my fingerprints taken in Italy, because I heard my life would be very difficult otherwise.”

Through the assistance of Eritreans in Tuscany, Yonas purchased a ticket to Rome where he slept at the train station and departed for Milan the next day. After a day in Milan, he departed for France and finally got to Calais.

Listen to Yonas’ account of life in Calais.

Date of interview: 10 June 2015  |  Last modified: 15 April 2016  |
Interview by: Khaled Abdu Mohammedsaid  |  Written by: Christa Awuor Odinga  |  Video by: Max-Michel Kolijn