A refugee in Latvia: Tefaye

Shy and taciturn, Tefaye from Eritrea is waiting on the court to grant him asylum. He has fled indefinite military service in Eritrea. He wants to study maths and as he's had unpleasant experiences in Latvia he wishes for the people here to become more tolerant. Read his story in Latvian Radio's latest strand about refugees who want to live in Latvia and are residing at the asylum seekers' center in Mucenieki.

"My name is Tefaye. I'm from Eritrea. I'm 23. Now I live in Mucenieki. I have been here for two months. I have a family in Eritrea, and have friends in Latvia," he says in Latvian.

As Tefaye has a darker skin than most other asylum seekers, he stands out on Latvia's streets. He is also markedly sadder than most, due to longing for his wife, who is still in Eritrea, and having suffered injustice at the hands of some locals.

He says that he likes Latvia much better than Eritrea. According to him, the maximum temperature in Latvia is the minimum temperature in Eritrea.

In Eritrea, he was forced to leave his studies and his family to serve in the military, infamous for having an indefinite term of service.

He said that living in 40-degree heat makes life difficult for people serving. Furthermore, Tefaye wanted to study mathematics, not study in the military.

However his smile that had appeared while talking about algebra and geometry, disappears when he's talking about his first impressions in Latvia.

"People living here in Mucenieki don't like dark-skinned persons. Me and my friend are afraid to go to some places," he said.

However in Rīga a group of people even tried to beat him up, and spat on him, so he spends most of the time in Muceknieki. 

He says people often choose not to sit beside him on the bus, saying that perhaps it's due to the color of his skin.

Despite his bad experiences here, Tefaye wants to live in Latvia as he cannot return to Eritrea. Even though there are no terrorist threats there, Eritrea has an authoritarian regime often compared to slavery. He wishes the following to the listeners of Latvian Radio:

"I want people in Latvia to be tolerant," he writes.

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