Smuggling Victim’s Traumatic Journey To UK


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 An Eritrean woman who is claiming asylum in the UK has described the trauma of making the journey here with people smugglers.

Fyori Habtay says men and women were indiscriminately raped and beaten at holding camps in Libya ahead of a perilous boat trip across the Mediterranean. 

The 25-year-old fled from Eritrea fearing she would be punished for her husband’s disappearance from the army.

Her uncle arranged for her to be taken by the traffickers across the Sahara desert though Fyori. She has no idea how much he paid them.

She said Libya had been ”terrifying”, adding that women were raped and beaten.

”We had to stay quiet or we were beaten. We didn’t sleep because there was nowhere to sleep. They beat us and insulted us. It was horrifying to see a human being beaten by another human. They are mindless. They beat us not with wood but with metal chains.

”I cannot explain and I don’t want to remember it. It is terrifying to remember so I’d rather not think about it.”

Fyori says she walked for six days to reach Sudan from Eritrea then spent 10 days in a truck with the smugglers travelling to Libya without food and water. 

She said: ”Until the money is transferred it is relatively ok but once they had the money they beat everybody.

”Everything in Libya is bad – you only go there as a last resort.

”The worst part of the journey is until you get to the sea. In the sea it is a matter of luck. It is God’s will whether or not you survive. The journey overland is degrading and humiliating. It makes you feel dirty like a stain on your soul.”

Fyori says it took five days to make the crossing from Libya to Italy before being picked up by the Red Cross.

She said: ”First they put you in a small boat  for about an hour and we were beaten to keep us quiet because they were afraid that we would be discovered. Then they transferred us to a bigger ropey wooden boat. During the transfer one pushes you from behind and another pulls you on board. If you slip and fall that is the end of you. It’s a matter of luck.

”About a hundred are put below decks in metal compartments to keep the boat stable, they are the ones who suffer most . There are about another hundred who sit in the middle and they struggle to breathe, people die there. When they go to the edge they can fall.  

”There were 570 of us. Two days into the journey I saw a helicopter hovering above but he didn’t rescue us, so we called the Red Cross and we waited 10 hours for assistance. The Italian Red Cross came. Everything was difficult and we struggled to get on board. People were fighting for the life jackets and some children were killed.”

In Italy Fyori says she managed to hide herself on a train in order to get to France. In Calais she smuggled herself into the back of a lorry to England where she claimed asylum.

She now lives in a house in Bolton with six other asylum seekers. The government provides her with accommodation and £36.90 a week to live off.

Fyori spends most of her time in the house apart from the odd trip out for food.

She misses home and says she has no idea where her husband is, but in spite of the trauma she believes she is better off in the UK.

She says: ”In my country things are bad. Everyone is in the military, there is no administration, no peace. It is getting worse, even the old people and the young are being conscripted into the military. There is no order.

”Here I don’t know anybody, I am constantly under stress and I can’t go out. I don’t have a family to relax with. I do miss my family, but if I were to go home I would be imprisoned because of my husband. I would have spent my life in prison in Eritrea.”

:: Read an exclusive report by Sky News’ Alex Crawford as she follows the team hunting the world’s most wanted people smuggler.

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