At 16 years, January’s father was kidnapped due to political conflicts in Ethiopia and she decided to take on a challenging journey of crossing to Europe through Libya with the hope of finding a better life on the other side of the world. The first born in a family of five went to Sudan and spent there five years during which, according to her, were peaceful. She later on transited to Libya, and her ordeal started. “When you don’t have money to give to smugglers in Libya, they torture you and sell you to whoever is willing to take you and use you for whatever they want. So, one of the smugglers gave some money to take me as his wife,” the 41-year-old recounted her life story. Upon arrival at his house, she was raped and found out that she was pregnant three months after she escaped. “Escaping was easy because most of the time he was not around. I decided to go and found work as a cleaner which helped me to earn some little money for survival,” she said. She gave birth to a girl who is now 12 years old. Along the way, January met a man, Haji, from Eritrea who also found himself in Libya trying to cross to Europe. Haji left Eritrea in 2014 due to internal insecurities and poor livelihood. When he arrived in Libya, smugglers tortured him and held him in an illegal prison for three years until 2019 because he did not have money to give them. After getting out, he did all sorts of labour work in construction sites, cleaning, transporting goods, and many others. Finding love and peace The two met in February 2020 as casual friends while Haji attempted to cross the border twice to Italy and Malta but failed and they later on decided to live together in December 2020. “When the UNHCR asked me if I was willing to go to Rwanda through the Emergency Transit Mechanism before being resettled to a third country under legal processes, I told them that I have a wife and I cannot leave her,” the 30-year-old said. In December 2021, the family and other asylum seekers were flown to the Gashora Emergency Transit centre which was set up thanks to a tripartite agreement signed between the government of Rwanda, the African Union and the UNHCR. January said that coming to Rwanda and fitting in society was very easy because “the African lifestyle is almost the same across all countries.” “I am saddened every time I think about other refugees in Libya who still need to be evacuated. Here, it is nice, we get to celebrate Children’s day, Women’s day, something that we couldn’t think about amidst those conflicts and challenges.” The centre is home to refugees from six countries of the Horn of Africa where they receive a number of services including shelter, access to health, psychosocial support, livelihood training as they wait for the processing of documents for resettlement to third countries. At least 1,453 refugees from Libya have been hosted in Rwanda since September 2019, through 12 evacuation flights. Of these, 919 people departed to third countries for resettlement and other complementary legal pathways. “I passed through a lot of challenges and living here has been peaceful but I still have a dream of going to Europe and building a life there,” said Haji, “once I get there, I will go back to school and find work to sustain my family.” The family also welcomed another baby girl in 2022 and they will be resettled to Norway.