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ENGL 4750/6750, Summer 2015: Voices: Eritrean Refugees in Cache Valley, Utah: Berhane Debesai Abraha

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Berhane Debesai Abraha

Berhane's main Portrait against Blue Wall


Berhane Debesai Abraha was born May 20, 1980 in the capital city of Eritrea, Asmara. He earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Asmara in 2003. He is one of sixteen children.

Berhane didn't come as a refugee to the United States, but is very involved with the refugee community in Cache Valley. Because he speaks fluent English, he is an invaluable resource to the Eritrea community and holds English classes every week. He works at JBS as a food safety supervisor.

Maps of Eritrean Refugee Migration



Berhane applied for a diversity visa and had to go to Sudan in order to fly to Kenya where he was able to contact the American embassy and secure his way to Los Angeles. After several months with no success in finding a job, he settled in Logan.


I come here because I want to work, but most of the refugees they are assigned to Salt Lake. Most of them, some of them they come from other states, because they have friends or cousins here, but most of them they are just assigned to Salt Lake, and they feel like Utah is home. Some of them they go back to other states, and they come back to Utah. It looks like Utah is their home [laughs]. If they don’t feel comfortable, "Ah, I am going to Utah," and they come here. But I don’t know why people ask, "Why do you come to Utah?"


Sometimes I wonder, "What if I die at night, who is gonna take my body back home?" According to us when we die, we go back home. And it costs the same thing if you get buried here you spend ten thousand dollar, and if you ship the body over there, you pay ten thousand dollar. Sometimes I feel alone because I don’t have anyone here. Yeah, but if you are a man you just suck it up and live your life [laughs].

Berhane Debesai Abraha talks about some of his concerns about living in the United States.

And in JBS when I become a supervisor, forget me. But the whole Africans, they were proud of themselves because, "Hey, this guy is from Africa." Some othem they don’t know me, they don’t know where I am, they just know I am from Africa. They were so happy for a month, they just say, "Congratulations, you make us proud." Because people think, "Ah, Africa is cursed country, these people they don’t- they are worth nothing." And sometimes they think we are worse than the black Africans here, because they are Americans just they are black, but we are Africans, still from the entire continent.

Berhane Debesai Abraha talks about what he is most proud of.

 Dreams for the Future

Though Berhane enjoys what he does, he is looking forward to moving to Salt Lake City to begin his Master's degree work in chemical engineering at the University of Utah. He hopes to work for a major engineering company and to one day get married and start a family.