Continuing our series of profiles of refugees looking for jobs.
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I had arranged to meet Natunael at Gare Cornavin, but I couldn’t find him in the crowds. I called him, and was surprised to hear his voice apparently coming from two places at once. While I was still speaking to him on the phone, he had crept up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder with a big grin on his face at the practical joke. That was my first impression of Natunael: someone who shared my sense of humour, an energetic and open young man, ready to take on new situations and always ready to smile.
Natunael is a fully qualified electrician from Eritrea. He has completed his diploma in electrical engineering and has several years of experience as an electrician. He has, furthermore, professional experience in plumbing, metalworking, woodwork and painting. He had achieved all this by the age of 23, proof of two of his outstanding traits – his capacity for hard work and his ability to learn fast.
His dream, he says, is to support himself through his work. He doesn’t want to be living at other people’s expense. He left Eritrea because he had no freedom there and no opportunity to achieve his goals. If he were to return, he would be put in prison simply for having left: that gives some idea of the situation.
His family – his parents and his sister – are still there. I ask him if he misses them. “Very much,” he says, “very, very much”, and he first smiles, then looks away, his clear eyes clouding over.
His eyes cloud over again when he briefly describes his journey from Eritrea to Switzerland. “It was hard”, he says, and the way he says that one word, “hard”, sends a chill down my spine. He is silent for a moment, but recovers quickly, to talk about the friends he has made in Switzerland and how he feels safer here.
He has been in Switzerland for 2 years, during which time he has learned French and English and received his B permit, allowing him to find employment.
“I like it. I love it,” he said, when I commented that he had already gained a remarkable amount of work experience. He is keen to continue as an electrician, and in particular looking for an internship or apprenticeship at an electrical engineering firm. When I ask him how he plans to achieve what he wants, he says, smiling again, “I will work. I will work better, and I will make it better”.
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