Monday, April 17, 2006

From Eritrea with Love

Living as a refugee is a challenging proposition, even in the best of times. But, Mohammed Idriss, a young man from Eritrea, definitely, knows a thing or two about what it means to be a refugee in Australia in the 21st century.

Mohammed was born in Eritrea in 1968 and came to Australia as a refugee in the 1990s. “My parents are Eritrean nationals with a large family of ten”, he said. “I have four brothers and five sisters”.

Eritrea is a small country of 3.5 million people on the north-eastern coast of Africa. It’s one of the newest African countries bordered by Ethiopia, the Sudan and the Red Sea.

Mohammed has a vivid memory of his ancestral homeland. And still talks candidly about the pain and devastation evident in three decades of war with Ethiopia – a war that led to the Eritrean independence.

Thus, to meet him is to be ensnared in the discourse on Eritrean politics and the struggle for survival.

Yet, as far as he is concerned, the war was a personal tragedy or what he describes as “My family nightmare”; more so because of the abduction of his father.

“My dad was the victim of an abduction…He was abducted at night by the officials of the Ethiopian intelligence agency in 1985 during the Mengistu regime”, said Mohammed. “Nobody knows till today if he is alive or dead”.

Meanwhile, the nightmare continues, unabated.

But, despite the pain and trauma of transition, Mohammed has made a remarkable adaptation to life in the land Down Under. He now calls Australia home!

“I am very happy enjoying the freedom in Australia”, he said, with a broad smile. “I have worked very hard since my arrival here and have changed a few jobs that I didn’t really like”.

On the whole, things are looking up for Mohammed who is happily married with three lovely kids, two boys aged 9 and 7; and a girl aged 3. He is a devoted family man, a good worker, and a conscientious student of international business.

Thus, like the new generation of Africans in Diaspora, Mohammed is looking forward to building a prosperous future in Australia. He has a dream (and a very good one at that!).

“My dream is to lead a good life, provide a decent education for my kids, and help some needy people in the third world countries”, he said, with a great deal of optimism.
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