Aman left his homeland Eritrea in 2017 for Ethiopia, where he tried to earn a living and build a new life. It was however difficult to find a job and Addis Ababa was an expensive city to live in, so eventually he decided to try his luck and go to Europe.
He contacted smugglers who arranged for the journey through Sudan and Libya.
The first thing that struck him when dealing with smugglers and their brokers was the sharp contrast between their sweet promises and the harsh reality of the journey. They said the trip would be easy and short, but as soon as it had started, they began treating the travellers like if they were merely goods to be transported, not human beings.
“To convince us to go, the smugglers told us the journey would take three days. You think they will get you there successfully because they are experienced. But these people don’t know you. They are not your family, your friends. They see you as money. Imagine that your life is valued in terms of money and you are shipped around like a piece of commodity. If you delay in any way or talk or try anything else, they beat you.”
As soon as Aman and his fellow travellers were boarding the truck that would take them through the Sahara, the attitude of the smugglers changed. They were beating the passengers with sticks to make them sit down in a way that allowed for as many people as possible to board. They had to sit in a very uncomfortable position, packed like sardines in a can.
The drive through the desert was very uncomfortable. They were driving at night and at high speed to avoid capture by the police. It was freezing cold and they had to keep their heads down, because if they faced the wind it was impossible to breathe. If someone fell off the truck, it would not stop, and that person would be left behind. The journey was interrupted somewhere in the Libyan desert and Aman’s group had to stay there for two weeks to wait for more people to join them. Then things got really bad.
“Suddenly some armed Sudanese bandits found us. And they kidnapped us. After they had hijacked three trucks, they said, we will take you our way. And they drove us for two days, day and night. After travelling a long distance, when we were sleeping, suddenly some other kidnappers came. There was a gunfight with the people who had kidnapped us.”
Aman and his group were getting exhausted by all these kidnappings and being moved here and there. He says some people died because they had lost their will to live. Then he heard that there was a UNHCR camp some distance away from where he was. He and some friends managed to escape and to reach that place. He was evacuated from Libya and eventually reached Sweden, where he is living today. He did succeed to reach Europe, but he feels he has a responsibility to warn other people about the dangers of the Sahara route.
“I want to tell people about the horrific things I have endured. I don’t see why anyone should go into such debt and suffering. People have suffered a lot and are still suffering. They become victims of illness and violence from people they don’t know. I feel terrible when I think of the people I left behind.”
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