Dreams of glory drive Eritrean refugee cycle team in Ethiopia
By: Diana Diaz in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The cycle team are childhood friends who got split up when they fled their native Eritrea more than a year ago. Once in Addis Ababa, they found each other again through their love of competitive cycling. Each push of the pedal brings them new hope.
“Cycling is a key part of my life. It’s the exercise – I feel happy and relaxed and don’t think about anything else when riding a bike,” says Filimon, 24. He describes how he learned to ride a bicycle as a teenager back home. “I used to compete with my friends every Sunday in the neighbourhood. My parents also supported me a lot.”
Filimon first arrived in Ethiopia by himself in 2015 and lived in the Main Aini refugee camp, in the northern Tigray region. He later moved to Mekelle where he got the chance to cycle once again.
“I joined a cycling team for six months,” he says. He later moved to the capital, Addis Ababa.
Filimon never imagined that cycling would reunite him with childhood friends. “It happened by chance. We fled for different reasons and at different times, but then found ourselves reunited here in Addis Ababa, thanks to our coach,” says Filimon with joy.
“I feel happy and relaxed and don’t think about anything else.”
While they are from different backgrounds, these motivated young refugees support and inspire each other. “I used to be a professional cyclist.” says Daniel, 24, another member of the team who uses his expertise to train his friends. “This team has become my family. We share everything, including money to tackle our financial problems,” he adds.
Since 2000, Ethiopia has received and hosted almost 170,000 Eritrean refugees, many of whom are children who flee unaccompanied or separated from their families. The Ethiopian Government allows refugees to live outside of camps, in urban settings if they can sustain themselves. Some 20,000 refugees have chosen to live in Addis.
Read more from the UNHCR official website