We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt…
The reason people are leaving Eritrea is not hunger; it’s a dictatorship that imprisons and tortures citizens at will. If he could live in Eritrea with freedom and safety, W told me there was no place he would rather live; it was home. As we drove out of Holot [Detention Facility in the Negev], W said, “it looks exactly like the military camp in Eritrea” (where men do constant, mandatory service until they’re 55, making it impossible for them to have any other life). “Exactly the same! The only difference is that in Eritrea, the fence is wood,” he said, looking out at the high, thick metal topped with barbed wire. –Testimony of W, a refugee from Eritrea, recorded by journalist Ayla Peggy Adler, 2/12/14
The Egyptians treated us badly and they made us suffer, and they put hard work upon us…
I was born and raised in Eritrea, where I was fortunate to be well educated…I taught high school math…On January 10, 2012, I fled my homeland to escape persecution… Smugglers offered to take me to a refugee camp, but instead they transported me to someplace in the Sudanese desert and held me and others as slaves. We worked in our captors’ houses and fields all day, without a break. I tried to escape, but they caught me; as punishment, they isolated me and held me, blindfolded, in solitary confinement for a month…We suffered greatly. We saw our friends die…I didn’t think I would survive…
On July 7, 2012, my captors took me, and others, to the Israeli border. Israeli soldiers spotted us but refused us entry. We turned back, and eventually we found a different route to cross into Israel. Security forces immediately picked us up and transferred us to the Saharonim prison.—Testimony published anonymously, 1/28/14
“It is because of what the ETERNAL did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”
Kamal (“Kimo”), 26, was born in a village in Darfur. He was 15 when the Janjaweed attacked his village. 800 of his villagers fled to the Nuba Mountains, where they made a temporary camp. Three weeks later, the UN found them , said it was unsafe, and helped them get to Kakuma camp in Kenya, but there were no opportunities for a real future or education there. With his best friend Ibrahim, he decided to leave. He left his family and went to South Sudan where he worked for a year to earn the money for the Bedouins to cross the Sinai. After climbing the fence to Israel, Ibrahim and Kimo walked for ten hours with no food or water. They finally saw the Israeli border patrol and they were given food and water and put into a detention facility. After six months there, he was brought to Levinsky Park in South Tel Aviv, where he stayed for three months outside, while working to get his visa. He has worked in hotels for the last four years. In his free time, he studied computers, psychology, and English and volunteered with ASSAF’s (Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) Youth Program. He received a summons to report to Holot Detention Facility on April 2, 2014. --Testimony reported during a series of writing workshops developed and run by Madelyn Kent with Jeremy Elster and Right Now: Advocates for African Refugees in Israel. These stories are part of a larger storytelling/video project with African refugees, “Desert Stories.”
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