A refugee's gruelling odyssey - from Eritrea to Germany

Garding, Germany - Brahane Tesfay, a 21-year-old asylum seeker from Eritrea, is one of thousands of refugees who have come here after a desperate journey for a better life.

But Germany wasn't Tesfay's first stop. He arrived at the end of April after spending more than five years attempting to start anew in Israel.

Now, in the small town of Garding, about 140km northwest of Hamburg, Tesfay is finally registered as an asylum seeker. Israel, he said, "was not a good [place]".

An Eritrean man died on Sunday after being shot by Israeli security forces then beaten by a mob after a Palestinian attacker targeted a bus station in the city of Beersheba. The Eritrean bystander, Haftom Zarhum, 29, was apparently mistaken as the attacker's accomplice.

Tesfay fled Eritrea when he was 15 years old to avoid being forced into mandatory military service. His older brother went with him, and they crossed Egypt's Sinai Desert to reach the Israeli border.

 Exodus from Ethiopia


Human rights groups have lambasted the Eritrean government for abusive working conditions, arbitrary arrests and corruption. Eritrean refugees are now the second-largest group of asylum seekers arriving in Europe, after Syrians.

"There is a siege mentality in the [Eritrean] regime. [Military service] has now become indefinite; huge numbers of people are ageing in the trenches - you have to sacrifice everything," Yohannes Woldemariam, an Eritrean and associate professor of international relations at Fort Lewis College in the United States, told Al Jazeera.

In Israel, Tesfay was taken to Nitzana, a boarding school for undocumented minors. He lived there for more than two years. When he graduated he went to Kfar Sava in northern Israel, and worked as a waiter. But it was not always easy to find work. He said he received racist remarks from people in the streets, and was ultimately denied asylum. 

"Today's refugees are brown, black, Muslims," Woldemariam said. "You can't compare it to really anything, maybe in the case of the African slave trade. At least during the slave trade they were wanted for something."