Translated from Tigrinya
To what extent our people, especially our youngsters are aware of asylum and understand its challenges this time?
The usual stereotype of the difficulties and bitterness of asylum has become futile nowadays and its role does not exceed the fear from asylum and its dire consequences. The situation becomes as such that people get convinced of the nature of migration and of life in exile, when they face it on the ground after they encounter its bitterness and hassles.”Let me leave and go ahead, do not stand on my way. I will not be settled until I see and face the migration risks and challenges on the ground by myself”. Based on this perception, many people are moving almost on daily basis on the path of migration that no one knows its end yet.
While the main cause for my migration is the very difficult current situation in Eritrea, the question is however, it is the only factor for the unprecedented exodus of Eritreans? The answer is certainly “no”. The perception in “Third World” about the advancement and well-being of the Western world seems to have impact on the migration phenomenon to the North. Although it is difficult to escape from this dilemma, it seems, there is a sense of deception in this regard.
Although striving to change once living conditions is natural, the question is in what form and in what way can this be achieved? And the notion of resorting to the Western world and the acquiring a great wealth in order to change and improve our situation at home country seems to induce us for further migration and risk our lives. In addition to the hardships asylum seekers face to reach their destiny, the worst of all is the life of alienation suffered by a refugee.
Azeb, who did not have any idea about life in exile before crossing into Ethiopia except the beautiful stories she used to hear about asylum and migration then. She is from the 26th batch of the national service, who went to the “Sawa” military camp to receive military training after completing her secondary school, as any other poor young Eritrean did so. She experienced the hard life of a student and military at the beginning at her young age. Although she wished to live with her family and help them, she was pressured by her parents to go to national service for fear of facing dire consequences, if she did not.
Although she was not a good performing student, she worked hard to attain a promoting result that would enable her to join a college. She sat for the matriculation exam, but she failed. Though she was not surprised for her negative result, she began to think deeply about her future and began to worry about what the future holds for her. She became captive to her intensive thinking and as she was the eldest daughter in the family, she intended to improve the situation of her family that she loved. However, her failure in doing that made her feel very worried as she said it openly.
A whole year went by, and in that condition she used to say, “For how long this situation will continue like this?” Azeb said. When she heard news about an opportunity for students who did not pass the matriculation exam that they could join the teachers training institute (TTI), she felt some hope and went quickly to register for the course. After receiving training courses for a few months or a short time in the field of teaching, she was assigned as a teacher [under the national service programme] in the village known as Ade- Kokebay in the outskirts of the town of Senafe. After working as a teacher for a short time in that village, she felt that her ambitions and aspirations were beginning to break and reached a level beyond which she could not bear it any more. Today, Azeb feels remorse when she listens fondly and hopes for the conversations of her colleagues and peers about the dreams of emigration and her imagined travel to Asmara from time to time. When she heard the alleged emigration and immigration fantasies, she thought she could changed her family’s life for the better in a short time and the migration path was filled with roses and so she began to think about the way to emigrate seriously. As the village where she worked as a teacher was close to the border with Ethiopia, it was a powerful impetus for her to embark on the ideal migration dream that seemed she is destined to. She began to look for a safe way to seek refuge by talking secretly to her colleagues from the area.
She knew that she alone could not take the difficult journey of migration and that she desperately needed a companion in that difficult and very risky journey, and so began to search deeply for a faithful person to accompany her on her journey. The rumors and unfounded information that she heard from her colleagues that many refugees in the camps in Ethiopia are resettled in America and Canada have greatly influenced her decisions and made her advance on the idea of migration sooner rather than later. After much search and consultation, Azeb moved with one of her colleagues and with another high school student from the area as a guide and after going for about two hours they crossed the border. The journey was easier than expected and they completed it without facing any difficulties. After completing the criteria of asylum at the “Enda ba Bagune” refugee reception center, they were transported to the “Hetsats” refugee camp.
At first, Azeb did not feel [the bitterness of] the situation in the refugee camp as a result of the difference in the whole set up of life inside the camp. But after a month, she began to learn that all the dreams and hopes she had of refuge and emigration when she was in her country did not fully correspond to the reality she found inside the refugee camp and became unbelievable to her to see the new reality that she lives.
She felt much regrets for the disappointing reality she found herself in and became confused about how to deal with that situation and she told me frankly that sometimes she had come to think about returning home. But how and in what way will that be? But as a result of her hasty and ill-considered decision and its consequences, she had only to look forward. Because of her distress and boredom at the refugee camp, Azeb decided to go to the capital Addis Ababa, and after much begging and appeals, she finally managed to enter Addis Ababa. Although she had expected the living situation in Addis Ababa to be more difficult than what she had experienced in the refugee camp, she found more difficult than she expected but she accepted the situation, as she is afraid that her assessment of the situation might be very naive. Azeb became trapped in life to live in dignity when the situation became beyond her capacity to support herself let alone to work to help her family, which was very the goal she migrated for. She felt that she had become a burden on her family and relatives which she had not expected. Basic living expenses from renting the house to taxi fare have become a major problem to her.
When her life in Addis Ababa became difficult and harder than ever, she decided to engage in any work, small or big. She began working as a waitress in one of the cafeterias, but because of the meager wages she was paid for and the difficulty of the work and the long distance, she could not continue to work and decided to stop it. While she was preoccupied with how to live and work because she had no profession or skill, she began to discuss and consult with many of the refugees she knew and also received ideas from many of her relatives that she could work as a coffee vendor. Then Azeb finally decided to go to work after she received support from some of her colleagues in buying the supplies of that job and already began the job.
And contrary to her expectations, she had a source of income through which she could rely on herself and then became serious with her work because of the support she received from her colleagues. In that case, Azeb spent about two years and when she recalls the misperceptions that she had in mind about asylum, she feels neither sadness nor joy at the same time. Thinking and planning about asylum and migration involves many unrealistic perceptions and hopes in the minds of many people at this time. Deep and realistic thinking is very necessary with regard to the issue of asylum and its consequences.
The view reflected in this article are the views of the author.