From the gate to heaven to Slovenia

Markos and his unknown journey from the gate to heaven, Libya 

Markos did not know and was not aware of the fact that many young men of his age might be sold and auctioned once reaching Libya. The world did not know of this catastrophic act done to human beings once again until CNN’s exclusive investigation on the slave trade in Libya was out.
This story is just one drop in the ocean. It was only four years ago when Marko’s journey started. He is a young man of 21 years of age from Eritrea. Like all other victims of war,  instabilities in life, poverty, and persecution. Markos fled his country to be able to survive and to be safe. Ethiopia was the first country he fled to through the hills with his family while trying to escape the compulsory military in which he calls, “the prison.”

Markos only showed one side of his face due to security reasons

The major reason why young adults like Markos try to flee Eritrea is the indefinite compulsory National Service. The service requires every young adult Eritreans to take 18 months of National Service in which Markos described, “once you join, there is no way out of it.”
Markos and his family believed that once stepping out of Eritrea, life will change for them all. However, it was rather the opposite as he explained. “If you have no documents and no proof of legal stay, you are counted as a terrorist in Ethiopia.”
Markos then joined the Blue Party which is only twenty-five years old and their main supporters are the young generation.
It was during the election in 2005 when Markos as the supporter of the Blue party and the other supporters were trying to hang posters on the walls in the streets, the police began to look for them.
“I went home that night and my mother told me that I have to leave the country as soon as possible because the police had come to look for me,” said Markos.
This is where the whole journey of being sold to smugglers after smugglers started for Marko along with hearing the news of his mother’s death.

Markos’ mother

The nature of fleeing countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia and other surrounding African countries is to escape with the help of some smugglers. This is what Markos and his friends did.
Markos explained further, “that same night we escaped the crowded city and ended up staying in the jungle for three days to find a good smuggler to take us out of Ethiopia and into Sudan.”
Throughout the journey, young men were sold from one smuggler to the other and to the other while each of them was asking for different prices and strange conditions to travel. The smugglers as explained by Markos take complete advantages of the refugees and their desperation. They do not have a set amount of charging the refugees, they ask anywhere between 800 USD to sometimes 4500 USD without providing any food or water. However, Markos and his friends did all they could to escape risking their lives.
“Once we arrived in Sudan, we were put in a room with more than fifty people including women and elderly people, we were given food only one time a day and you could not shower or even step out of the room,” said Markos.
The room was only temporary of stay so that the smugglers collect rounds of money and create a group to start the next journey. “If you had money on you or not, you had to wait for a large group to be formed and then start the next journey because the smugglers were not taking people individually,” Markos added.
When asked if it was a dream to end up living in Europe, Markos responded, “I had never imagined going to Europe, I didn’t even know how Europe would look like, I had never even seen it in the movie but I did hear about two big countries like Germany and France.”
Markos thought when he reaches Sudan he will be able to start a new life, but nothing happened. When asked if he even thought about making Sudan his final destination, he expressed his feelings further, “It was like a prison, you couldn’t see the sun, I couldn’t imagine living there.”

“It was like a prison, you couldn’t see the sun, I couldn’t imagine living there.”

From one side of the story, the world brags about human rights and talk bigger and bigger on a daily basis, yet from the other side, slavery is back big time just as it was three centuries ago.

Markos then asked around to find other smugglers to take him to where the world calls, “the gate to Europe” Libya. He managed to pay the smugglers to take him to Libya. He explained further that during the journey from Sudan to Libya, he had experienced people dying from being thirsty and hungry. Girls were being raped during the journey and young boys were killed because of not hiding their Orthodox crosses. The form of the transportation he explained, was mostly walking and less driving. He said that the smugglers do and say anything for you to pay them and they promise that the conditions will be good, but, “everything they say is fake and pretend but on the way, it is nothing like what they said it will be,” said Markos.

“I stare at her every time I step out of the house, she makes me feel stronger,” said Markos
Religion is what gets Markos going

Markos explained further of his feelings from the experiences that he had traveling through Sudan to Libya, “I get sick to this day thinking of those days. It was very hard; I cannot sleep most of the nights it hit me like a flashback but with friends’ help, I went to the therapy.”
When asked what do they want to sell you for between the smugglers, Markos said, they want to make money out of you. “When you are free, you are not really free, “Markos said,

“When you are free, you are not really free, “

having money in your pocket to pay for your transportation does not mean you are free. He added, “the money doesn’t go to the government; it goes directly to the smugglers’ pockets.”
During his stay in Libya, he experienced pretty much the same as when he was in Sudan but this time even worse. Markos witnessed rich men coming into where the refugees were and they brought young men and asked them to work for them or in their way, brought them. He added further, “Also girls, they buy them and they take them for sex.”

After Libya

Markos managed with some other people to pay for a boat to take them from Libya to Turkey. He said, “it was hard to go from Libya to Italy direct because of the police so we chose the other direction to go to Turkey.” He further explained, “It was the easiest way because not a lot of people were going to Turkey. We paid for the Turkey direction to get a boat and we were told to sail the boat ourselves and none of us had sailed a boat before.”
Markos then arrived in Turkey and felt safe but with little money and the worry that he is an Orthodox and it would not be easy for him to find a job and settle in a country like Turkey.
The journey was not ending for Markos in Turkey, he began to travel to Greece this time. He went from Greece to Macedonia and Croatia. “I was thinking to stay in one of these countries, but they don’t give you anything,” said Markos. Then he stops in Austria and was sent from there to Slovenia and into the Kotnikova camp.
Markos explained his experiences in Kotnikova camp, “I was just eating and sleeping, there was nothing for me to do, I began to feel very depressed and wanted to get out as soon as I can.”

Tavarna Rog
Rog is an old bicycle factory and now the home of many like Markos. It is located in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. The factory started to become the place for social and cultural activities in the year, 2006 as it is evident in the video documentary in this article. The video is derived from Gram Media production. The place is massively covered with graffiti paintings which are done by artists and those living in the area. It is also covered with many bicycles and posters for film screening, philosophy lectures and other programmes free of charge and funded by some organizations. The place has artist studios, photo galleries, a social center for refugees and migrants and disadvantaged people.

Rog Factory, the home to many refugees

Markos first heard of Rog Factory from some friends from Afghanistan. Here is how he describes the place, “You will find very good people in Rog…That place for me is like life and if it is not Rog and the people in my life I would have killed myself a long time ago.”

“You will find very good people in Rog…That place for me is like life and if it is not Rog and the people in my life I would have killed myself a long time ago.”

For Markos, Rog is a place to be and a place to feel safe in. He has now decided to rest his wings here and to not move anywhere else in the hope of getting his official papers by the foreign ministry in Slovenia. He hopes to open up a circus school in Ljubljana since there are none so far.

The question now is that if that one drop in the ocean, Markos, feels that his life continues because of the Rog Factory and that he is free of slavery, poverty, the endless National Service and persecution and above all, safe, how can the municipality of Ljubljana attempt to evict and destroy the factory for the purpose of renovating? What would happen to the lives of so many other drops in this big ocean if the factory is destroyed?

All refugees are welcome