“I am Novel, I am 19 years old…”

by: Novel, an Eritrean refugee living in Belgium

“Life in Eritrea is very hard. My dad was forced to join the army and was only allowed to be with us 1 week every 3 years. Everybody is forced to join the army once they turn 19, without knowing when or if they will ever be able to return home.

My mother could not take care of 9 children alone. I was 13 years old when I fled Eritrea. Before that, my older brothers and sisters had already fled to the Netherlands, Germany and Israël. Two years ago, my father, mother, younger brothers and nephew Aman tried to leave Eritrea and get to Ethiopia. My mother was arrested at the border and imprisoned in Eritrea.

Yesterday, I saw my father, brothers and nephew for the first time in 6 years [Miles4Migrants flew five of Novel’s family, altogether]. I am so extremely happy to have them with me, words can not describe. My older brother and sister and their families also came to the airport when they arrived. Finally we are together. The only wish we have now, is that our mother and the mother of my nephew Aman can join us in Belgium.

Thank you so much for your help to my family.”

Update: Shortly after Novel reunited with her family in Belgium, our friends and partners at Steunpunt Asiel & Migratie vzw informed Miles4Migrants that her mother was released from prison and returned to Eritrea. Steunpunt Asiel & Migratie are working to have the mother’s family reunification visa issue so she can rejoin her family.