Adebe married her childhood sweetheart, Daniel, in Addis Ababa when she was 22. The trouble was, although Daniel was born in Ethiopia, he was of Eritrean stock, and when the two countries went to war, he was deported to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, where he was forced to join the army.
Adebe couldn’t bear the separation and fled to Sudan. When Daniel heard she was there, he deserted and escaped and joined his wife in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. It was hard there so after a few months, they decided to try to make it to Europe. It took them two weeks to cross the Sahara desert to Libya, the launchpad for boats to Italy.
En route, Adebe and Daniel were robbed of all their savings. Many of those they were with died on the way, their bodies thrown from the crowded shipping container they were crammed inside by Libyan traffickers. They ran out of water and food.
“There was no space to sit; people were vomiting, going to the toilet where they stood,” Adebe said. “People died.”
They told me their terrible story in a secret meeting in Tripoli, where they now live hand to mouth, in constant fear of arrest. Adebe and Daniel are not their real names. I had a clandestine meeting with them in a safe house. They held hands as she related what happened next.
On arrival in Tripoli, they found a room which they shared with other refugees, all from Eritrea. One night, after six weeks, the police arrived, arrested them and whisked them off to separate prisons, where they were to spend the next three years.