From Eritrea


24 March 2023

My name is Meskerem. I come from Eritrea. I left my country when I was a young woman of 15, along with my sister Masa who was 23. I never went to school. My sister had to leave because she had been called for military service, which in Eritrea, one never knows when it will end. With a broken heart, my mother sent us away to save our lives. She gave us all the money that was in the house and her gold.

We walked for a long time during the night, until we reached Sudan. From there my sister organized a trip towards Libya. We crossed the Sahara in a pick-up truck. There were many of us, men and women. When someone would fall off, the truck would not stop. Some were already being kidnapped at this stage of the journey.

Before entering Libya, they put us in a big warehouse filled with people. There was an unbearable smell. We were prisoners. My sister started negotiating to get us out. They saw that she had gold and they took it. In the end we were able to leave and we began working a bit. At that time, we were able to speak with our mother and I was happy. One day my sister did not return and I have had no news of her since. I looked for her everywhere without success.

I was treated like a slave by the woman with whom I lived, and one day I ran away and joined other Eritreans. They took me to a warehouse filled with people — “ghem ghem bari”, which means before the sea.

Those who paid, left in groups. While I was there I met Suleiman, my future husband. One cannot leave without paying. The bosses of the warehouse took me to a house to earn the money for the voyage. I was there for six months and I suffered all kinds of violence, and “they disrespected me”. I could no longer stand up. They took me back to the warehouse for departure. There I met Suleiman again. He took pity on me and began to protect me. Once we were on board, we spent 11 hours at sea. A Libyan coast guard boat came and took us back. We were imprisoned once again at Bem Kasher in Tripoli. We stayed there for 11 months. We were waiting for the unhcr to come register us. Suleiman and I married at the camp and my daughter was born at the camp. One day I received a telephone call from Italy, and they told me that I had been included in the Humanitarian Corridors. I did not believe the first phone call. Then during the second phone call, they began to ask for my documents, the names of my husband and my daughter. In that moment I felt there was something like an angel taking me from earth and flying me beyond the sea, away from hell. I could no longer sleep. I thought, Are we really going to leave? It seemed impossible to me. Then the unhcr also called and it seemed more real.

I was very happy, but even on the plane, I was afraid. I thought they would make me get off before take-off. My hell in Libya ended after 10 years. I would very much like that those who stayed behind could also experience my joy. I am now pregnant with my second child. We are very happy because my daughter lives here, she goes to school. She will not experience what I experienced. Now I am happily pregnant. My gratitude will never be enough. My heart is filled with joy.