Mikael (24 years old, Eritrea)
“My name is Mikael, like the archangel, and I left home in 2015. It took me three years to get to Europe”.
He wears slippers far too big for his feet and a wooden cross around his neck. His eyes are pitch black, but shiny as a moonlit night.
Like most of the Eritrean migrants, Mikael’s journey took him across Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, spending more than one year in detention there. “Libya means no food, no water. Everything no,” he says. At first he describes the place where he was kept as a house. When asked to be more specific, he adds some no’s to the list: “It’s like a hole, it’s underground. In my group we were 3000 people all in one room. No light and no beds.”
“The only thing you have to do is pay. If you don’t pay you don’t get any food and after a while they move you to another ‘house’, and you have to start from the beginning. You can be sold several times.”
All his money went to an Eritrean man, who was in charge of dealing with the Libyans. “They give you the phone and you can call home asking for money.” His father in Asmara paid 13,000 US dollars to set him free. His eyes are now full of gratitude and sadness: “He gave his life to give me a new life.”
Even though he knew how dangerous the journey to Europe would be, he decided to try. He deserted from the army. Conscription in Eritrea is compulsory and indefinite. It can last forever and that’s why “If you get the chance to be free, you have to take it.” Crossing the Mediterranean Sea took days by boat, but he says it’s nothing in comparison to what he had to face before in Libya.
“We had bread, but we decided to throw it in the water. People were fighting for it and we had to avoid that the boat would overturn. But it didn’t happen, and I am alive.”
He adds: “When I put my feet on the ground the first thing I wanted to do was call my dad.” He finally shows us a big smile. “I am happy.”