This is the story of Base, a child refugee from Eritrea. We’ve not used his real name, or his photograph, to protect his identity, but he currently has achieved refugee status in England. His story is like many others. It is real, and heartbreaking, and it is a factual account of his incredible journey.
This is why we do what we do!
Base was 12 years old when the soldiers came. He lived at home, in a small village in Eritrea, with his mother and father, his elder brother, and his two younger sisters. His mother was expecting another baby, and all was normal and happy.
He woke up one day to a loud banging on the door and he ran downstairs. Soldiers flooded his house. His heart pounded, as fear gripped his soul. His mother cried as the soldiers took his father, bundling him outside. When his brother was seen, they took him too. Base hid behind a door. Quietly, like a mouse, terrified to be seen, silent tears fell from his cheeks. He didn’t even get to say goodbye or take one last look at his family, together for the last time.
He just didn’t understand why the soldiers took his brother and father. But his mother told him later that they’re soldiers now. You see, in Eritrea, forced conscription is indefinite, and sees children fleeing a system that is effectively forced labour. Those caught fleeing it are kept in underground cells or in shipping containers. They are tortured and enslaved, and often killed!
Soon after, Base, the oldest man in the family, at twelve years of age, had to become the provider for his family. He worked his fathers horse and cart, like a taxi. Every day, he would come back to his broken home, where his mother was devastated with grief. His home was no longer a happy home, for they were stricken with grief.
One day, when he was out working, the soldiers came back for him. His mother was terrified! But Base wasn’t home, so they left empty handed. Knowing that they would return, his mother packed a bag for him. Inside she put the bare essentials, along with a note, written on the back of a family photo. She gave him a phone with the numbers of all his loved ones stored in its memory.
Knowing that the journey north would be so dangerous for his sisters, and her being pregnant, she sent Base on his own. What decisions some people have to make, for she would have known what would have happened to his sisters on the way, where rape, torture, and enslavement are common for these people. She borrowed money from her brother, she sent Base to a smuggler, and said goodbye, knowing also that keeping him there was a death sentence for him. Her love for him, so pure and unselfish, meant that she had to say goodbye!
He met two friends from his school, who were also fleeing forced military service. About 40 people crowded onto the vehicle to take them across the Sahara Desert. Base and his two friends clung on as it raced off into the dust. The other people on the truck were from many different countries, and Base didn’t know the languages. He could still sense the fear in their voices. Base, and his two friends crowded in with the others, including men, women, children and two babies.
The road through the desert was bumpy, and jolted its passengers along the way. For hours they drove through the dust, in the blistering heat, sweating, with next to nothing to drink. Suddenly, they truck hits a bump, and Base and his friends were jolted around. His friends foot slipped, he grabbed his other friend, and they both fell together into the sand, leaving Base still on the truck.
Base screamed, to get the drivers attention. Everyone screamed, as the truck drove away, leaving the boys in middle of the desert. But the truck didn’t stop. It just kept on going, trudging its way through the sand, and leaving the boys to die….
To follow the journey of Base, and of other survivors, along with the stories of the rescuers and the rescues, follow our page.
Thanks to Jaz O’Hara and The Worldwide Tribe for help writing this story
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