Girma’s story

We supported G with travel for his two teenage siblings H and R. Unfortunately they were not granted exit visas at the same time and due to the situation in Ethiopia deteriorating they travelled to the UK separately.

“When we were in our home country the rule of the country said you have to join the army when you finish secondary school. I joined for 15 years until I escaped from the country. Over that time my wage was 500 Nakfa ($10). As me and my wife were looking after children and siblings I was sending 400 Nakfa to my wife and was left with 100 Nakfa. Later my wife got a job in a clothes shop for 1000 Nafka so she was managing for everything in life as you know, rent, shopping, bills and on not really enough. We were struggling. I couldn’t help her as I was in the army. They gave me just 30 days to see my family every year. In these 30 days you can cover nothing but I was trying as much as I could. After all this, the only choice I have was to escape from the country and go somewhere safe. That’s why I left Eritrea.

I left my country because there is no change for your life and your family, no freedom, no freedom of speech, freedom of movement from region to region or province to province. If you break the rules you will be arrested and imprisoned until they release you. Or they may not release you. If you are arrested nobody is allowed to ask about you. If they ask they know what will happen. When I escaped from the country if they had caught me they may have killed me or imprisoned me for life without going to court. Some of our friends have been imprisoned for 15 or 20 years and nobody knows where they are or whether they are alive. Some military leaders have been in prison since 1991 after being arrested by the dictatorship. This meant there was no bright future so I left the country, not minding the risk of death.

It took me one year to get to the UK and I have been for four years in the UK now. I was apart from my family for five years. It was hard but even when I was there I could only see them one month per year. I spent just five months with my family in that time and I was in pain as I couldn’t help them. When I had left the country at least I was safe and could help them with some money as well.

Whilst we were separated they were not safe they were really struggling. They arrested my wife because I left the country and asked her about me and if she knew where I was. She told them she knew nothing and that I wasn’t there but they couldn’t understand her. I rang our neighbour and they told me she was in prison because I left the country. When I heard this I hung up and could not control my emotions. I couldn’t do anything at the time apart from continue my journey.

My children and siblings were alone at that time, imagine what they could do. Later I contacted some friends in Israel to see if they could help me. They paid the rent for one year. I was very happy about that. My wife was released from prison after six months because when they checked the house they had no evidence that I escaped through my home. If they had found evidence my wife would be dead. But I had escaped from the army to Sudan without any weapons, just my military clothes.

The application for the family reunion visas was done by the Refugee and Migrant Centre and all was good and smooth because of them. They helped me a lot. If I had to be the one who had to do it, it would have been very hard.

My advice to other families in the same situation is to be patient through whatever problems whenever they are. First they should find a safe and comfortable place. After that they should ask people who can help them with advice on how they can solve their problems. Especially charities like you, Together Now, Red Cross, Refugee and Migrant Centre and Citizens Advice. If you know about these you really will be satisfied and happy with the advice and support they give.

I only know myself what situation I was in and what situation I’m in now. Before I was in stress with much pain. But now I am with joy and happiness plus a safe and comfortable life. I thank God for everything, then all the charities plus the UK for giving me chance to live in a comfortable life. What I can’t find in my country I found here.

Now I’m very very comfortable, safe and happy with my family. My future plan is to educate my family from zero to a high level as they have the opportunities. As a father I will work hard with my wife and look after our family. As I had many problems I would like to help people who are facing the same problems from all across the world as a volunteer. I will help as much as I can, a little help may have value.”