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Daniel’s journey involved human traffickers and a search across Europe for asylum / Photo: © ANSA

From Eritrea to Europe, Daniel’s story of a desperate search for refuge

Daniel is a refugee from Eritrea. His journey involved human traffickers and a search across Europe for asylum. He has been a political refugee since October and will soon be in Rome to teach an English language course for migrant centre workers.

28-year-old Daniel worked as a chemistry and physics teacher in Eritrea. One day in 2014, he was arrested by the authorities.  “They accused me of having tried to flee the country,” Daniel told ANSAmed. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong moment: he had been alone and too close to the border.

“They kept me in prison for seven months, until I managed to escape during a transfer,” he said. That’s when his journey to the North, in search of a future, began.

Migrants as merchandise

Daniel first fled to Ethiopia, where he spent three months in the Hitsats refugee camp. After that, he left for Sudan, where he met human traffickers who were organizing a transit to Libya. Daniel’s family paid for his journey and he left with 120 other people. Once they reached Libya, they were stopped by soldiers during their journey from Benghazi to Tripoli. Daniel said they were arrested near the town of Sabha and for three weeks he was imprisoned along with 100 others.

“The soldiers were asking the traffickers to pay a sum for each of us. They took us hostage and sold us,” Daniel said. In Libya, migrants are treated like merchandise, and in Daniel’s case the traffickers paid to get Daniel and the others back. After that, they were taken to Tripoli.

Search for asylum across Europe

After two weeks in the Libyan capital, it was time for Daniel to depart for Europe in a boat. “The traffickers asked me to count everyone,” Daniel said. “There were 267 of us, 15 of whom were children,” he said.

The group was at sea for 17 hours when rescuers arrived and picked them up. Daniel was taken to Catania, where he arrived in June 2015 and went through the formal identification process. “We didn’t want to stay there. So they transferred us by bus up to northern Italy. I left for Switzerland from there,” Daniel said. That’s where he filed his asylum request.

However, due to the Dublin Regulation, he was required to apply for asylum in Italy, since that’s where he was first identified in Europe. Daniel made another asylum request in Norway, but that was rejected as well.

In April 2016, Daniel was forced to return to Italy, where he was transferred to a migrant reception centre in Frascati, in the hills just outside Rome. It was here that his asylum application was accepted. “In October they accepted my asylum request,” Daniel said. “Now I’m waiting for them to send me the documents,” he said.

Teaching again

Thanks to the “Programma Integra,” a co-operative for the social integration of migrants and refugees in Italy, Daniel will be able to work as a teacher again. Starting 2 May, Daniel will be teaching English as part of the “I Understand” course offered by “Programma Integra” to migrant reception centre workers and Italian citizens.

Daniel said the co-operative had offered a restaurant course, and that’s how he found out about the organization. “When they saw that I knew English well and that I had been a teacher, they asked me if I wanted to teach this course,” Daniel said. “It’s a great opportunity. I decided to take on this new experience to help me integrate,” he said.

Daniel has no doubts regarding what he wants to do in the future. “I’d like to go back to school and enrol in engineering,” he said. “In Italy, people want to help you. I want to stay here to build my future,” he said.

© ANSA

LEBARA