B: Age 15, at Via Cupa

B: Age 15, at Via Cupa


I landed in Pozzallo two months ago.  I stayed in Sicily for two months, then I came here to Via Cupa.

I had tried to escape Eritrea two times, starting when I was 13, both times without telling my parents, who would have disapproved.  The first time I was caught and sent back to Eritrea, where the military put me in an underground prison for a month until my parents paid for my release.  In the prison we lay together like sardines in a can, day and night.  We had minimal food.

The second time I succeeded in escaping.  I stayed in Sudan for two years, working. I originally had no plan to go to Europe.  But then I heard that life in Europe was better than in Sudan.  I also heard of the risks of traveling through Libya and crossing the Mediterranean, but I didn’t believe the warnings, because I knew of some people who had arrived in Europe safely.  So I tried it.  I was in a Libyan smugglers’ camp for two months, then spent ten days crossing the Libyan dessert.  

In Libya, we were beaten for anything, and girls were regularly raped.  The smugglers once made a brother watch his sister being raped.  When I first arrived in Libya I was beaten, because my payment money was late.  If your money was a week late, you would be beaten all day.  Another time I was beaten for talking to a friend.  Many people had broken legs, broken hands, broken ankles, skin diseases.  People who couldn’t pay the smugglers would be left in the desert to die.  Or they would be worked for eight to twelve months, then sold to someone else as a slave.  For those who couldn’t pay, the smugglers would have Eritrean prisoners beat Somalis, and Somali prisoners beat Eritreans.  So you could be both a victim and a torturer. 

When I finally set out for Italy, I was first put on a plastic boat holding about 50 people, then transferred at sea to a larger boat stuffed with 500 people.  After ten hours on the larger boat we were rescued by the Italian navy. 

I would like to get to England, where I have family and friends.  I’ve been here on Via Cupa for ten days, waiting for travel money to arrive from my family.  They are selling everything they own to try to raise the funds.  I would advise my friends in Eritrea to not make this journey.  I would not want them to see the things I saw.