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“The promise to make my friend happy”


Italy, having passed through Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya. After a long journey that lasted for months, I meet Selam, from Eritrea, at the EMERGENCY clinic in Siculiana. Together with her are two beautiful children: Yafet, almost five years old, and Heyab, two months.

Before going to visit the doctor, I ask Selam about her trip, as I do with all the patients here, and I congratulate her: “You have two beautiful children”. Silence falls in the clinic, I fear that she hasn’t heard me properly so I repeat it again: “They are really beautiful”.

Selam sighs deeply and thanks me. Then she tells me that Yafet and Heyab are not in fact her own children. Selam didn’t start the journey from Eritrea alone: she had Ghenet with her, who was expecting a baby and had a four-year-old son.

Once in Libya, Ghenet gave birth. While the baby girl she was carrying survived, heavy internal bleeding meant that sadly she did not. Ghenet’s two children were alone in the hell of Libya’s prisons without their mother.

As she cries, Selam keeps telling me that, before she died, Ghenet asked her to never leave the children alone. She promised her she wouldn’t. Risking her life once again, Selam and Ghenet’s children managed to leave Libya and reach Italy, making it to Lampedusa. Here, she told the authorities about everything she had experienced, provided all the necessary documentation to formally request custody of Ghenet’s children, and asked to be able to reach her family in Germany.
One year after we first met in the clinic, I received this message just a few days ago:

“I’m in Germany and we have started the reunification process to get the father of the children here from Sudan. Hope allowed me to make my friend happy.

Selam wrote that message to me.

–Yohanes, EMERGENCY Cultural Mediator