A JOURNEY TO SAFETY
From Ethiopia, learn about the amazing work being done to assist refugees with medical treatment. Senay tells his story of escape from Eritrea.
My name is Senay*and I am 32. This is my story. Thank you for helping me when I am far away in Ethiopia.
When I was 20 at home with my family in Asmara, Eritrea, I was conscripted into the army. Our army is known for being difficult so I resisted joining. Soldiers came to our home and put my mother in prison until I enlisted. So I joined straight away for fear of what would happen to her.
In the army, senior officers were cruel to soldiers and treated us badly. I often endured beatings from them. Conscription is meant to last four and a half years but I was in the army for ten years. Sadly, that is not unusual; it is rare that anyone is allowed to leave the army.
The worst day came a few years back. Two other soldiers and I were in charge of a group of prisoners. These prisoners were fellow Eritreans who had tried to get asylum in Malta but were turned away. The senior officers told us to take the prisoners out and shoot them. There was no way any of us could do it. Mercifully, the prisoners were able to escape and to this day I hope they are safe.
When the officers found out they were furious. They beat all three of us. When they had finished, I couldn’t walk or use my legs.
I was taken to hospital the next day. My wounds were bandaged, and although I tried, I couldn’t walk. While I was in hospital I made some good friends – we shared our stories and I knew I was not alone in how I had suffered. For the safety of my friends I cannot reveal the details, but they smuggled me out of hospital, got me across the border, into Ethiopia and into a refugee camp.
For the first 18 months in the camp I was in a wheelchair. EOC-DICAC (The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission) work in the camp and took me to doctors in Addis Ababa. X-rays showed that my legs and hips were broken in many places. Doctors operated and I had physiotherapy. Incredibly, because of their wonderful work I now use crutches and am able to walk! I have even found work and this makes me happy.
Without your support and help I would not be walking or working. Now, I just want to be in a safe place where I can work. Yes, I just want to be safe.
* Names have been changed to protect identities
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Ethiopia has a history of struggles along ethnic and religious divides. Despite these hardships the country continues to accept refugees from neighbouring countries including Eritrea. On average, a refugee will spend 17 years in a camp before their situation is resolved.
Through your generous support of Act for Peace and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC) together we are providing access to health care services to more than 2,500 urban refugees in Addis Ababa.
The support provided includes assistance with medical expenses, emergency transport, supplementary dietary requirements and housing. Emergency medical assistance is also made available to critically vulnerable refugees
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