Nahom left Eritrea with his siblings for Khartoum, Sudan to join his uncle who had fled Eritrea some time before. Next, Nahom’s family hitched a ride on a truck bound for the Sudan-Libya border. At the border, Nahom and his family boarded another truck, lying underneath a tarp that covered the truck’s bed. Off-road somewhere in the Libyan Sahara desert, the truck broke down, and the drivers demanded more money from Nahom’s family. Stranded and complicit in an illegal border crossing, they had no choice but to pay.
After crossing the desert and reaching Tripoli, Nahom’s family then went to Tunisia. They stayed in Tunis for 4 months until political unrest broke out in late 2010, the first of many uprisings throughout the region now known as the Arab Spring. The UNHCR provided Nahom and his family with a flight to Romania, free of charge.
While the Arab Spring afforded Nahom’s family a plane ticket to Europe, millions of refugees and asylum seekers have embarked on the treacherous journey by sea, and many have died. For example, In 2015:
Nahom’s family made it to Romania and stayed in the town of Timisoara for 5 months until they were able to fly to Fairfax County, Virginia. All refugees have a travel loan they have to start paying back within six months of arrival in the US. Washington, D.C. and its suburbs are home to America’s largest Eritrean and Ethiopian immigrant communities. After 3 years in Virginia, Nahom’s family relocated to Indiana, where they remain to this day. They have called Indianapolis home for 2 years.
Upon gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1991, the victorious Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) reorganized itself as the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice party (PFDJ) and promptly outlawed all other political parties. The PFDJ government has been described as one of the world’s most repressive regimes in the world, where citizens face “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” according to a 2015 UN report.
Ever since war broke out with Ethiopia again in 1998, all Eritreans under the age of 50 have been required to serve in the Eritrean military for an indefinite period. The prospect of years of forced labor under harsh and corrupt leadership – or worse, another war with Ethiopia – has prompted massive numbers of Eritreans to flee the country, risking death or imprisonment.
This is what drove Nahom and his family to endure the arduous journey out of Eritrea.