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15 February 2019

13 Year Old Emanuel’s Journey

Emanuel and his mother were forced to flee Eritrea together in 2012 but became separated in Ethiopia when Emanuel’s mother became ill. He secretly left Eritrea for Sudan in the hope if he eventually reached his brother’s in the UK he would be able to send back medical supplies. He knew if he told his mother she would try and stop him.

At age 13 he was travelling alone, he was young and vulnerable. He crossed Sudan and then on to Libya. But, he told me that the scariest part of the journey was when he got to the coast and he had to cross the Mediterranean on a small boat.

Luckily, he made it across safely, but he was in Italy alone and homeless after becoming separated from a group of Eritrean women he had met on his journey from Sudan.

But he kept going. The whole way along his journey he knew that he didn’t want to stop and that he had to continue, the only way he would be safe is if he could be reunited with his brothers in the UK.

He kept thinking of his unwell mum who couldn’t join him and would often find himself crying alone on a bench in a park longing for her. While recalling this memory to me he suddenly smiled and said: “but then I learned a new word, it was how to say please in Italian which I then used to beg for food on the streets. After, people became very kind to me and bought me loads of food… ”

Emanuel managed to make it to Rome, which was where he was helped off the streets by the authorities and taken to a much safer children’s camp. That’s when he made friends with Ridwan, another child refugee we eventually helped reach safety.

No one had told Emanuel that there was a legal route for him to be reunited with his brothers, so he wanted to run away to continue his journey to France. Ridwan, who was trying to reunite with his aunt in the UK after his mother and brother died crossing the Mediterranean, was quite keen to do the same. But he wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do.

Safe Passage, through family members, were made aware of the boys’ whereabouts and informed them both of their legal rights. Safe Passage lawyers went to Italy to reassure the boys that they are doing everything they could to reunite them with their family, but they needed to stay in Italy.

While waiting in Italy both boys were moved to a foster family where they were both happier and more settled.

It took almost a year but we finally managed to overcome the Italian bureaucracy and reunite Emanuel with his brothers and Ridwan with his Aunt. They have both now been in the UK for 18 months and are going from strength to strength.

Emanuel and Ridwan were lucky to be safely reunited with their family. Right now there are thousands more children in Europe who need our assistance. Please allow us to help them by making a donation today.  

– Mona Mahmoud, Community Manager, Safe Passage