Two young Eritreans, recent arrivals in northern England after paying smugglers thousands of dollars to take them across the Sahara desert, Mediterranean Sea and English Channel, are hoping the British government will let them stay.
While Britain has vowed to open its doors to 20,000 Syrians who are fleeing their home country in unprecedented numbers, Eritreans seeking to escape from violence, persecution, and poverty fear their claims for asylum could suffer.
In Britain the largest number of asylum applications in the year to June 2015 were from Eritrea – but two thirds of claims, 66 per cent, were refused in the second quarter of 2015, a jump from a 14 per cent refusal rate in the previous year.
Adnom, 25, and Meron, 22, speaking in a cafe in Bradford, 175 miles (278 km) north of London, said they were worried about the tougher stand adopted by the UK government this year which ruled that Eritreans would not face persecution if sent home.
Both say they face detention and violence in Eritrea – Adnom because of his Pentocostal Christian faith, which is banned, and Meron because he ran away from military conscription.
“I never want to go back to Eritrea … if I go back, I will get killed or go to prison,” said Adnom, adding that he had already been jailed once in Eritrea for his religion.
The two men, who would only give their first names, are among the estimated 360,000 Eritreans from a population of 6.3 million who have fled from the impoverished Horn of Africa nation. Eritreans are the third largest group among refugees and migrants heading for Europe.