The photo shows Ramadan Mussa in the salon in Rome, where he works as a barber. Credit: Stefano Intreccialagli. ANSA
The photo shows Ramadan Mussa in the salon in Rome, where he works as a barber. Credit: Stefano Intreccialagli. ANSA

This is the story of Ramadan, who fled Ethiopia because he did not want to fight in the army any longer. For years, he has been wandering around Europe, looking for a place to settle. Now, he is building his future in Italy.

Ramadan Mussa, from Ethiopia, is 35 years old. He fled his country of origin and has lived in Italy since September 2016, after having travelled across Europe in search of work and a future.

"In Ethiopia, I went to school until I was 13, then I went to technical school and became an electrician," he told ANSA. When the request for military conscription arrived, Ramadan was forced to fight in the war with Eritrea. 

"While I was fighting, I met an old friend of mine from Eritrea, with whom I had gone to school. That was the moment when I realized that we're fighting a war between brothers, and I said 'enough.'" Ramadan decided to leave the army and escape, hiding away in his former village.

Imprisonment and escape to Italy

After two years, Ramadan went back to the city and tried to build a new life as a singer. One evening, while he was in a nightclub with some friends, someone recognized him and called the police. Ramadan was arrested. "I was in a one-metre-square cell. I couldn't sleep lying down; they would beat me," he said. Eventually, he confessed to having deserted the army. 

"I was in prison for four months and they asked me to pay 10,000 birrs to leave," he said. His sister, who lives in Italy, sent him the bail money. "After getting out I was scared. I stayed at home and couldn't live in peace," he said. Thanks to his sister's help, he got a work permit for Italy. He left Ethiopia in 2007 and reached Italy by plane.

"I worked here until 2010, then I lost my job due to the economic crisis," he said. With the job loss came the loss of his stay permit. He left for Norway to look for a new job.

In search of a better future

Between 2010 and 2013, Ramadan went back and forth between Italy and Norway, because of the Dublin Regulation. Norwegian officials told him he had to make his asylum request in Italy because it was the first European Union country he arrived in. "In 2013, I went to Switzerland, where I stayed for a year. I requested asylum, but they told me to go back to Italy. I preferred fleeing to Germany," he said. He stayed there until 2016, working as a carpenter in Nuremberg, but he said he couldn't get stay documents in Germany either.

In the end, Ramadan was brought back to Italy, but he was given a document requiring him to leave the country within seven days. "In Rome, I met the volunteers of Baobab Experience and I showed them the document," he said. With their help, Ramadan told his story at the questura and filed a request for political asylum in Italy. He's now awaiting an interview with the territorial commission, which will decide whether to grant him refugee status. 

Meanwhile he is living in a reception centre in Lunghezza, on the outskirts of Rome, and has been working for three weeks as a barber. In the future, he'd like to become a cultural mediator in Rome. "Migrants don't know what happens in Europe, and even if they did know, they wouldn't have a choice. They should change the situations in the countries of origin, otherwise the arrivals will continue," he said.

Those who try to reach Europe "know they could die at sea, but between dying in your own country and trying to reach Europe, it's better to try for a new life," he said. 

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