News / Africa

UN: Thousands Fleeing Eritrea in Desperation

FILE - An Eritrean would-be immigrant talks on the phone at the Lyster barracks detention center for immigrants in Hal Far, outside Valletta, Malta.
FILE - An Eritrean would-be immigrant talks on the phone at the Lyster barracks detention center for immigrants in Hal Far, outside Valletta, Malta.
Lisa Schlein
A U.N. investigator reports about 4,000 Eritreans are fleeing the country every month to escape indefinite national service, arbitrary arrest and other persistent violations of their human rights. The investigator, who submitted her second report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, says the situation in Eritrea has deteriorated since she filed a report last year.

Statistics may not tell the whole story, but they are revealing. Last year about 2,000 people fled Eritrea every month in search of asylum.  That number now has doubled. The U.N. human rights investigator for Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, calls this 50 percent spike shocking.  She says it shows the "level of despair" that people risk their lives, taking very difficult routes, dying in the desert or drowning at sea in search of hope.

"What is also shocking is that people know those risks ... and, it is like, 'We take it because there is no other choice,” she said. 

The U.N. refugee agency reports 13,000 Eritreans have arrived in Italy by boat since the beginning of the year, accounting for 32 percent of all arrivals in the European country.  

What is pushing Eritreans to leave in droves is the pervasive and brutal abuse of their rights.  In her report, Keetharuth reports Eritreans are subject to disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests and long periods of incommunicado detention in inhuman prison conditions.

She says people above all are fleeing to escape the country’s system of national service, which has been ransformed into a system of indefinite forced labor, says Keetharuth.

She says people are paid about $10 a month for their service.

“Originally, it was meant for 18 months and at the moment it has become an indefinite situation where people are conscripted for 14, 15, 20 years from the age of 18 up to 50 years, indefinite national service ...  The whole population is conscripted," she said. "So, it is in fact not a sustainable long term solution in terms of running the country.”  

The U.N. investigator cites, what she calls “guilt by association,” as the families of those who flee are punished by having to pay a fine or by being detained.

She says detention centers are severely overcrowded and are often underground cells or shipping containers, which are extremely hot. She says people receive little food and hygiene is horrific, conditions that often lead to death in custody.

She warns Eritrea could soon be a country without people inside, and an ever-growing diaspora spread around the world

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
June 20, 2014 5:10 PM
Good Blees Refugee Eritrea

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid