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Tag Archives: eritrean migrants

Syria, Iraq and Eritrea: why people are fleeing

EritreaEritreans are fleeing one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships established after the country of six million won independence from Ethiopia, in 1993, following a long destructive war. Power rests in the hands of president Isaias Afewerki. Located in the restive Horn of Africa, Eritrea has one party, has never conducted free elections and has no rule of law or independent judiciary. Eritreans are forced into indefinite military service or compelled to take up jobs in the administration and public services, including as teachers, without reference to their training or expertise. Children are suffering from the system, which has compromised their future. Governance is poor in Eritrea. Tens of thousands are treated as slave labour, arrested without charge, held in concentration camps and tortured. The government is said to back al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shebab, which is waging war in Somalia and across the border in Kenya.

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Eritrean translators ‘intimidating refugees’ in Germany

Eritrean translators 'intimidating refugees'

Eritrean translators are deliberately mistranslating the testimonies of refugees during their hearings, according to dissidents' groups in Germany. Some are even intimidating them into hiding human rights abuses. "He asked us, 'Wait, where's the part where I was tortured in prison?' And we said, 'that's not in here.' He was completely horrified," Rut Bahta, co-founder of the Frankfurt-based Eritrean dissident network United4Eritrea, said she has a few stories along these lines. Her group, which provides support for new arrivals from Eritrea, often has to retranslate into Tigrinya the transcripts of their asylum hearings, which the authorities only provide in German. It's at this point, Bahta said, many find out that the state-assigned translators had mistranslated or omitted major details. "He couldn't believe it at first - we had to get a third person to translate," Bahta told DW. "He'd been through countries like Sudan and Libya, where no one ever asked him what happened to him. This was his first time in Europe, and he thought everything would be done properly now. He was utterly shocked - disappointed in the institution."

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Sea of migrants

Sea of migrants

During this year, the UN says more than 150,000 migrants have reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa and Turkey. At least 2,000 have died while trying to make the journey on unseaworthy boats and inflatable rafts, double the number of last year’s fatalities. Greece and Italy have received about 75,000 each. Turkey, which hosts nearly two million Syrians, is the launch pad for Syrians and Iraqis going to Greece while Libya, a country which has no effective government, is the main transit area for Sub-Saharan Africans sailing to southern Europe. Sixty per cent of the migrants arriving in Greece at the rate of 1,000 a day are Syrians, the rest are from war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia and from Eritrea where men are fleeing forced conscription in the military. The migrants are greatly straining the slender resources of Greece at a time of severe economic hardship, forcing most to cross the northern border and transit the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary with the aim of reaching the more affluent countries of the north. Ten per cent of migrants setting sail from Libya to Italy are Syrians, the rest come from war ravaged Somalia and Sudan, repressive Eritrea, and poverty ridden Nigeria and Gambia. All face dangerous, arduous and deadly journeys across land before setting sail for Europe. While migrants are more welcome in better organised Italy than in Greece, the majority also seek to continue their journey to France, Britain, Germany and the Nordic nations. However, the countries where the migrants want to settle are reluctant to accept large numbers of them.

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Eritrean man shot while trying to cross the border from Eritrea to Ethiopia

eritrean man shot by eritrean soldiers

A 20-year-old man from Eritrea is nursing serious leg wounds after being shot twice by people he says were Eritrean soldiers stationed near the border with Ethiopia. "Even after I fell down, I could hear the bullets whizzing past me," Weldab tells me from a clinic bed in Mai-Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia. "I was lucky that I escaped. There were 10 of us in total; I don't know what happened to the rest of my friends."

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The EU wants to pay off a brutal dictatorship to help it solve its African refugee problem

On April 19th, an overcrowded fishing boat due for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. It was the most notorious incident of its kind in a year that has seen a spike in migrant shipwrecks . Up to 900 people died, many of whom had been locked below deck. Of those 900, the largest group, estimated at 350, were from Eritrea, a country of about 6 million people on the Horn of Africa. Despite its small size and relative isolation, Eritrea has accounted for the second-largest number of migrants to Europe last year and so far this year—trailing only Syria, which is currently in its fifth year of civil war. Approximately 35,000 Eritreans arrived in Europe in 2014, according to Frontex (pdf), a 206% increase from the previous year; 48,000 thousand applied for asylum, per the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a 119% increase. In an attempt to stem the flow, the EU is boosting its aid to Eritrea. It says the money is meant to help tackle poverty and create jobs. But the real cause of Eritrea’s exodus has very little to do with lack of economic opportunities. Its people have for years been fleeing a repressive military dictatorship that forcibly conscripts young men for indefinite periods and treats prisoners like animals. Their stories are key to understanding the roots of the refugee crisis—and why the EU’s aid package looks like an attempt to paper over it.

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Africa in Transition » Eritrea’s Humanitarian Crisis and Mediterranean Migration

Eritrean migrant sits up at the Saint Ludovic border

This is a guest post by Amanda Roth, a former intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program. She is a recent graduate from the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, where she studied international security policy. According to the International Organization for Migration, 23 percent of the 170,100 refugees that arrived in Italy by sea last year were from Eritrea. In a country of only 6.3 million, the United Nations estimates that approximately five thousand people flee every month. Eritrea has been largely ignored internationally, but increasing numbers of refugees, a growing diaspora community, and the regime’s involvement in instability in the Horn of Africa may mean that it is time to take a closer look at the police state that has been called the “North Korea of Africa.”Earlier this month, the UN released a report illuminating the country’s horrific conditions and accusing the Eritrean government of “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations.” The report is only the latest to condemn the government of President Isaias Afwerki, who has ruled the country without elections for more than twenty years and exerts control over nearly every aspect of daily life.

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Eritrean asylum seekers protest in Israel

A protester in Israel simulates a torture technique

Asylum seekers from African countries have been called 'infiltrators' by the Israeli government, housed in desert detention centres and deported to third countries; protesters demanded recognition as refugees. Hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers protested in Israel Thursday to urge action against their country's regime and call for recognition as refugees. Their demonstration came after the release of a UN report that provided damning details on alleged human rights abuses in the Horn of Africa nation, and with thousands of Eritreans seeking asylum in the Jewish state.

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